Malayalam cinema has had an excellent run with critics this past year and the couple of months passed of 2018, and from the looks of it, I have a feeling this is going to be kept up for a good long time to come. Artistic merit was seen in all its glory in great films like ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’ and ‘Mayaanadhi’, and even seemingly commercial films like ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ had a nerve of aesthetic quality about them. I had a lot of expectations going into ‘Ee Ma Yau’ ever since it won big at the Kerala State Film Awards.
‘Ee Ma Yau’ is not your average Malayalam movie. Its interests, for one thing, lie in describing a situation in detail, as opposed to telling a structured story or conveying strong emotions. To make a comparison to the bland, dry cinematic style of a filmmaker like Michaelangelo Antonioni could seem applicable but wouldn’t be totally right, because there are scenes of actual emotional output in the film, though elements of a dramatic nature are given little value on the whole. This prompts it to appear authentic and sit close to reality, which, funnily enough, is the factor that helps engrave the picture’s haunting tone deep into your mind.
The film deals with the aftermath of a death: how it affects different people connected either directly or indirectly to the deceased soul, and how further proceedings are carried out. The theme alone is brilliant, but what I especially adored is how they went about executing their ideas. The entirety of the picture takes place during the course of one cold, stormy, terrible night, just off the coast in a tiny fishing village. The opening couple scenes, following a beautiful shot of a church band marching along the beachside under the blissful morning sun, familiarise the audience with the man who will soon cease to exist. He has aged, and he has a couple of quirks complementing his time on the planet. He gets drunk with his son on the night of his passing, and the sudden bereavement burns a small fire that slowly spreads throughout the area, the story going around from mouth to mouth.
Lijo Jose Pellissery, the director, understands very well what he has been given to work with. His central characters are near perfect in the way they have been constructed. This includes Chemban Vinod’s Eeshi (a marvelous performance among many others, I must say), the aforementioned son, and his family, mostly filled with women who come to terms with the elder’s departure by crying deeply in a sing-song closely related to the village culture (an act that might even claim a stand as an art-form because of how darkly creative it is with its cynicism). Also in line is Vinayakan’s Ayyappan, a party member, and close friend of Eeshi’s, who helps him carry out the “dream funeral” his father had requested moments prior to his passing in a casual, intoxicated conversation.