The story of Lonappante Mamodeesa is similar to that of its titular protagonist. it is no doubt a late bloomer. Just as the character who falls short of blooming at every turn, movie plods along for a while before its inner workings come together, and explodes into passionate blooms.
On the surface Lonappante Mamodeesa may play out like a local story about a local nobody’s journey towards self-realization. But once all the drama tropes are unfolded, characters fully fleshed out and narrative elements intertwined, the Film really elevates itself beyond its basic premise. At the end, what began as a non-descript film about an embittered bachelor, and his unmarried sisters turned into a moving commentary on the transformative power of storytelling in everyday life.
The death of his parents at a young age has left him fending for his three sisters by managing an unprofitable watch repair shop in town. Quickly we learn that it’s a straightforward story about a gifted but undiscovered storyteller whose life is as irreparably broken as the clocks hanging in his watch shop. Lonappan’s sad state of affairs assumes greater clarity when he attends a reunion of 10th standard school. Lonappan grows bitter and blames circumstances and society at large for his perceived lack of ambition.
If the storytelling as a theme gives the film its authenticity, it is the storytelling technique that lets it down at times. In the first half we see Lolappan in almost every frame. We also get a good sense of the destructive bitterness that permeates Lonappan’s character. While we are treated to more than just a glimpse of his storytelling capacity, there is no conscious effort to remind us of his artistic temperament in the first half of the movie. Perhaps, the writer did not intend to present this artistic side as a recurring theme, and instead focused on Lonappan’s indecisiveness and his inability to cope with failures. Anyway, I felt the first half left a lot to be desired, giving me little incentive to find out what the second half has in store for Lonappan.
Uninspired as I was during the interval, the writer in me did not stop asking questions about Lonappan’s possible course of actions for the second half of the film. Of course, many would have expected see art emerging as a means for Lonappan to turn his around in life. Not many would have imagined Leo Thaddeus to weave together the myriad details of the story into a whimsical tapestry that is full of life and empathy. And that’s for me is where Lonappante Mamodeesa triumphs.
What I found particularly commendable was the sequences showing Lonappan’s transition from the bitter to grateful person who starts to see the beauty in another person’s creation. The underlying message being that “an artist is he who sees beauty in every creation”. It is perhaps the most malayalee movie of our times that will resonate among malayalees of different stripes. The film sputters on with hit-and-miss lowbrow humor that will test your patience and taste. But at the same time it’s got some thought-provoking moments that demand your serious consideration. Film is in no rush to establish the character of Lonappan so much so that it looks like a character study at times. To an extent it manages to make effective use of its pacing to capture his idiosyncratic relationship with his three sisters. Dhileesh Pothan appeared as Lolappan’s school friend.With a casual machismo, Joju Joseph played Lonappan’s Cousin while Shanthi Krishna and Anna Rajan impressed as his elder sister and love interest respectively.
Lonappante Mamodeesa is a low-key tribute to the unsung story tellers among us. People with deeply personal stories capable of moving hearts, transforming relationships, and purifying your innermost soul. It is a heartwarming, if not flawless, tale of storytelling that makes use of Jayaram’s acting chops to a poetical effect almost unheard of in Malayalam movies. if you can set aside the sketchy exposition in the first half, Lonappante Mamodeesa is one of those rare movies that can take you on a unique trip where you can laugh a little, lose parts of you at some points, and rediscover the whole you at the end.