Director: Jis Joy
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Mukesh, Siddique, Anarkali Nazar
If not a filmmaker (or voice artiste) one feels Jis Joy would have made an excellent CEO for a greetings card company. With his signature brand of toxic positivity, he’s here with another film populated with people who see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The darkest we can get with his characters is a bit of mischief, a shade of jealousy and a little crookedness. In Jis’ hands, Breaking Bad would have been the story of a benevolent chemistry teacher who supplies crystal meth for free with the sole intention of spreading joy.
Mohan Kumar Fans relies on a similar drug cocktail of feel-good nostalgia and effervescent optimism to keep us going. It is about an 80’s era superstar named Mohan Kumar (Siddique) who has made a return to screen after a major gap with an artsy offering. The industry has changed and so has stardom. So when his comeback film is pushed out of theatres to make way for the festival season, Mohan Kumar hopes a National Award win for his performance will give him his rightful space in the annals of Malayalam cinema.
This novel-yet-thin plotline is easily the most saccharine of Bobby-Sanjay’s scripts and it works best as a harmless critique of the Malayalam film industry in a space that’s neither as witty as Udhayananu Tharam nor as crass as Padmashree Bharat Dr. Saroj Kumar. Actor Mukesh, who played a supportive producer and a lover of good cinema in these two films, plays a supportive producer and a lover of good cinema in Mohan Kumar Fans. If Rajappan became Saroj Kumar in those films, it is Krupesh which is later changed to Agosh Menon over here.
The observations remain within this harmless space and even the conflicts are the results of genuine human errors, rather than malice. But the issue with this is that the stakes are never high enough to really matter. Everything has a way of sorting itself out and you’re not really invested in a movie where everyone’s nice and likeable.
Another issue is how it all fails to come together. For a large chunk of the film, we’re led to believe the film is as much about Krishnanunni (Kunchacko) and his career as a singer as it is about Mohan Kumar. But this bit of detail has no consequence to the film later on just like how two songs are forcefit into the screenplay to justify the reality show setting. To give you an idea, when Krishnanunni is asked to buy his boss some booze, he refuses by saying something like, “I’ve never heard of anyone getting better because of alcohol.”
All this positivity can take a toll on the viewer especially during such a time. It is comforting like a packet of Maggi even though you know it’s unhealthy. Brightly-lit with tiring cheery music, Mohan Kumar Fans has a few good laughs but it barely leaves an impact after its running time. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and I guess it’s time for certain filmmakers to realise that.