CultureCinema ‘Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil’: A Back Plunge For Malayalam Cinema

‘Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil’: A Back Plunge For Malayalam Cinema

Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil (2024) is a one-time watch recommended only if one is drawn to family-oriented marriage stories.

Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil (2024) is a recent release in Malayalam starring, director cum actors Basil Joseph and Prithviraj Sukumaran in the lead roles. The film is directed by Vipin Das, better known for Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey (2022) and Antakshari (2022). This comedy-drama has engrossed over 70 crores at the box office within twelve days of its release, adding the film to the list of golden hits in Malayalam for the year.

Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil is a family entertainer focusing on a planned arranged marriage and the unforeseen commotion that comes along. Though predictable at several points, the film has gracefully added numerous humour scenes that effortlessly incite laughter.

The film’s crux is an arranged marriage planned between Anjali (Anaswara Rajan) and Vinu Ramachandran (Basil Joseph) by Anand, the bride’s brother. However, uneven involvement of the family members and misunderstandings lead to difficulty in accepting the marriage later on. However, these cliched sequences are weaved with mundane elements in new ways making it acceptable for the viewers.

But, the film especially in the second half is a clear drag.

No significant female characterisation

Even when the Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil so daringly tries to speak about marriage in a not-so-serious manner, it has social commitments as always that need to be encoded. It vastly neglects this and tries to act so normal that this important theme is ignored. The film deals with an arranged marriage concept which usually disempowers women in the decision-making and execution. Therefore, the characters of Parvathy and Anjali are muted as puppets. 

Source: Trailer Screengrab

Anjali is more empowered and has plenty of choices than Parvathy who has made up her mind to tolerate and disregard her self-esteem for a married life. The females in this film appear to be too infatuated with the idea of marriage as the ultimatum. The film has not in any way tried to de-tangle the concept of marriage as a happy haven.

Anjali is the most excruciating because she does not give a single reason as to why she wants to continue with the marriage or what she finds interesting about Vinu. Their bond is nothing short of an arrangement which Anjali and Vinu think is their happy beginning. In addition, they do not spend much time together or have any common goals in life. Anjali even after recognising many disturbing thoughts acts as if it will never trouble her, this seems as if she knew him always. This all points to the fact that Anjali is too enthralled and in love with the idea of marriage and a safe, settled life offered by Vinu. 

On the other hand, Parvathy exerts her force only in remaining separate from her in-laws. She pretends that she does not care but, she does. Parvathy is a self-proclaimed victim who does not take a moment to discuss her issues and worries with her husband. Indeed, Anand does not offer her a proper space, but she too neglects it as unwanted. The other female characterisations in the film are too negligible and without any purpose or significance.

Altogether, such weak characterisation of females is a focused crippling of the female force in the film and it’s a back plunge for Malayalam cinema especially in this age of growth.  

Humour as the only pulling horse

Apart from all the other factors that keep down-pulling Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil, the only single thing that keeps it moving is loads of humour. The bromance between Anand and Vinu unpacks the potential and chemistry of Basil and Prithviraj as an acting combo. The humour that unbundles when they appear together on the screen is the main source of temper in the film.

Source: Trailer Screengrab

Though other efforts for humour sequences are made, they do not always achieve their aim and sometimes, fail miserably. Jagadish, Yogi Babu, Irshad and many others add to this perspective on humour, without which the success of the film might have been at risk.   

The acting style of Basil and Prithviraj

Basil’s character, Vinu Ramachandran and Prithviraj’s character Anand have done a terrific job of articulating those careless and self-absorbed male tropes in Malayalam cinema. Their acting styles and the wide combination of other actors including Jagadish, Rekha, and Irshad take us down memory lane of the late 90s. The family-oriented films were around such marriage-related themes.

Source: Trailer Screengrab

Oftentimes, the intense connection struck between Anand and Vinu, the soon-to-be brothers-in-law is unmatchable to any such shown on screen and it readily evokes humour as well. It seems as if they plan to get married only to become relations. Anand becomes the soul and motivator of Vinu until the truth strikes them apart. Prithviraj at times becomes so embedded in the actor that he reduces to the role of any common brother who wants to get his sister married to one innocent, less manly and well-settled groom.

But as a husband, Anand fails to understand or maintain a good rapport with his wife. Both these males are alike in their sense of self-centeredness which they would not give up easily. The climax scene where Anand expects his wife to openly say everything just to obtain his aim is such a sequence from the film.

Basil as Vinu appears to be a cool and positive man who is easily demotivated by the random thoughts of his lost love. He still blames her for breaking his heart and continues to hate everything that evokes her memories. Yet he tries hard to improve the family life of Anand sparking the issues thereafter. Their set of homosocial bond is quite emerging in the initial scenes of the film which never grows beyond the starting phase. Both as a lover and as a soon-to-be husband Vinu is not so promising to his partner. His character appears as a miniature of Anand forecasting the family life he is most probably heading to. His healing or development as a grown individual is never stressed in the film whereas, the entire focus is on marriage as a significant event in life.   

Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil (2024) bears another significance in that the film got linked to two other films with its storyline and casting. Nandanam (2002) where Prithviraj and Aravind Akash acted are connected in the climax as well as the 1992 Malayalam film Grihaprevesam where the parents of Anand, Sudevan-Raji couple’s marriage story unfolds.

Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil (2024) is a one-time watch recommended only if one is drawn to family-oriented marriage stories where the Basil- Prithviraj combo strikes. Apart from the hype, the film does not offer much more than to tide away time, yet it has tried to utilise the golden commercial time in Malayalam cinema just to gather the audience. 

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