Mr. & Ms. Rowdy sputters and fizzles out faster than the ill conceived quotations that our rowdies undertake without much thinking. Interestingly, the movie works well when it playfully lay bare the shortcomings of its characters while making no pretensions to a specific story. But the moment it steps into unfamiliar grounds in a half-hearted attempt to embrace crime tropes, the film falls flat, eventually clutching at straws to hide its own inadequacy. Unlike what its title suggests, this is not a movie that occasions the coming together of two professional rowdies. The story follows the lives of five childhood friends whose criminal past denies them a fair crack of the whip to turn their lives around.
Mr. & Mrs. Rowdy starts out with the most featureless characterization of its four main characters, but comes alive when Poornima (Aparna Bala Muralidharan) enters the life of Appu (Kalidas Jayaram) following a series of unfortunate events. Poornima’s belligerent step mother Kicks her out of home on the pretext of an ostensibly sordid mix-up involving she and Appu. With nowhere else to go, Poornima ends up with Appu whom she now holds responsible for her homelessness. The story then follows her growing influence on Appu and some unexpected turn of events that will change the lives of five friends.
While Mr. & Ms. Rowdy carries the trappings of a crime movie, not long into the story you realize that it’s more of an oversimplified, satirical commentary on misguided youth than an authentic caper. Hence, when it incorporated a sensational crime theme into the final quarter of its casually cobbled together story, the film seemed totally out its depth to see things through. Contrived and artificial as some of its scenes were, it is a film that cannot be critiqued for its lack of authenticity. It’s solely interested in portraying five socially ostracized ragtag bunch, who have been reduced to making livelihood from petty crimes.
These are small-time criminals who are essentially stuck in their crime-stained delinquent past. Now their shared dream in life is to become a powerful, wealthy gangster like Dominic, a role model who strikes fear into his targets and aspiring rowdies alike. Again Jithu Joseph has gone one step further in exhibiting his singular knack of spotting criminal potential on the prettiest of faces. If the physical features and demeanor of dubiously endearing criminals don’t strike you as quite menacing, there is background music to convince you otherwise. It’s not my intention to dismiss the celebrated works of baby-faced assassins.
Let’s look no further than the protagonist Appu who’s quickly put in his place by poornima when he’s told that he possess neither the DNA, nor the looks of a rowdy. His delicate veil of bravado cracks everytime he is pushed to the limits. He’s not particularly helped by his standardized speech pattern which is a far cry from patios of the village he and his fellow rowdies inhabit. The contrast grows uneasily clear during a series of heated exchange with Poornima who actually sounds every bit as uncouth and local as his partners in crime. For a further demonstration of Appu’s incompetence as a rowdy, there’s a supposedly intense scene in the second half where Appu shakes up some middle aged guy. From the look of things, the guy was not so much intimidated as tickled by Appu’s limp grip around his neck.
Most of the story unfurls in some idyllic countryside of Kochi, and I could identify some familiar locations such as Varapuzha and Kadamakkudy. If the first half unhurriedly careers about establishing the characters against their not so dissimilar backgrounds, and the second half saw the film making a brief plunge into a totally unfamiliar swamp and reemerge carrying a placard with the most unsubtle, schematic commentary about a societal evil. In short just when the film started to show signs of recovery from the damages caused by its clockwork narration, it suddenly lapsed into mediocrity of its own making. The distinctive ways the themes in the movie tranpire in the course two halves left a lot to be desired.
While watching the film I found it hard to come to grips with the fact that this was written by the same person who gave us Drishyam. But then it’s easy to view it as the work of a director just having some fun. This becomes quite clear when you see the sequences where he satirizes the over-the-top stunts in popular Malayalam movies. To be honest, it never quite felt like a disappointing fall for a movie that never really hit the ground running in the first place.