‘Aelay’ film review: A well-crafted rural film on a problematic father son relationship
Director Halitha Shameem’s latest offering lacks pace but the performances and characterisation make up for it
We’ve all been talking about Georgekutty of Drishyam 2 in the last week or so. But this week, Tamil cinema has given us a Muthukutty to talk abut.
Aelay opens with a family that has just seen the death of Muthukutty (Samuthirakani). Parthi (Manikandan) arrives there sans fanfare, emotion. He looks at the dead body of his father rather impassively, and walks around the household with no signs of being shaken up.
In some time, he’s hungry and heads out to eat a plate of parotta, even as the wails and cries inside his household continue to fill the air.
Why is Parthi devoid of any emotion, and who is Muthukutty? Aelay tackles this troublesome father-son relationship with ample twists and turns, especially towards the second half.
Tamil cinema has looked at such troublesome relationships before; Em Magan, starring Nasser and Bharath, comes to mind immediately. While that film made the father plain evil with a change of heart in the end, Aelay gives multiple shades to the father: he’s cunning, he’s miserly and is fond of his drink and gambling….but he’s also affectionate and considerate when the situation arises.
Muthukutty sells kuchi ice (icecream) for a living, and given that he’s doing so in dusty rural Tamil Nadu, he ought to have become successful. But he struggles to make ends meet – he even once exchanges a costlier icecream (the ones that used to come in a ball) for a paltry cone that he’s selling. All these shady dealings do not go down too well with his son, Parthi.
Aelay’s first half is told majorly in flashbacks; the sluggish nature of the scenes do test your patience a bit. A romance stretches it even further but once things get interesting post the interval block, Aelay metamorphises from being an old-fashioned rural drama to a quirkier tale that is peppered with humour and intrigue.
- Cast: Samuthirakani, Manikandan, Madhumathi, Saranya Ravichandran
- Director: Halitha Shameem
- Storyline: A father-son relationship goes through several twists
Director Halitha Shameem ensured that Tamil cinema fans ended 2019 on a great note, with her colourful Sillu Karupatti earning much acclaim and setting a trend with anthologies that picked up during the pandemic and continues till date. Muthukutty is written well, getting more shades as the film progresses, and that’s no surprise as he is the protagonist. But to Halitha’s credit, even the other major characters — Parthi, Nachiya (Madhumathi) — sustain interest thanks to their layered performances. Even a supposedly insignificant dog gets a rather interesting treatment in the Aelay universe.
The cinematography (by Theni Eswar) helps in setting the tone for all this; a crucial sequence featuring a coconut tree gets captured by some great camerawork. Kaber Vasuki and Aruldev’s music add flavour to the rustic locations, but it’s the characters and their performances that win you over. Muthukutty’s ice vandi will surely keep you cool this summer.
Aelay will be premiered on Star Vijay on Feb 28 (Sunday) at 3 pm