Lijo Jose Pellisserry's latest outing, Ee.Ma.Yau , will certainly be counted among the classics of Malayalam cinema. There is no better way to open this review. Pellisserry, known for breaking new grounds with his style of filmmaking, has added a new chapter on conceiving realism in cinema.
This whole new cinematic experience lures you in, right from the title of the film—Ee.Ma.Yau—which is the contraction for 'Eeso Mariyam Yauseppe (Jesus Mary Joseph). In certain Christian communities, these words are whispered into the ears of a person on his death bed. The film Ee. Ma. Yau, too, is a rather loud whisper—about the world's insensitivity, even in the time of death.
Set in the coastal village of Chellanam in Kochi, the movie unfolds through the happenings between two evenings. The plot revolves around the death of Vavachan Mesthiri (Kainakary Thankaraj) and the efforts of his son Eeshi (Chemban Vinod) to arrange a “grand funeral” (the one he promised) for his father. Eeshi is a failure at dealing with and drawing practical solutions for his problems. It is his friend and local politician, Ayyappan (Vinayakan), who coordinates everything for him.
But, as hours pass by, unprecedented events, tensions, and absurd doubts about the death of Vavachan sprout up, and, finally, Eeshi reaches a stage where he cannot cope with the world around him. The church vicar (Dileesh Pothan), who is overly obsessed with detective novels, plays a very important role in the twists and turns in the plot. Ee.Ma.Yau is a clear reference of how religion can sometimes play the unlikely villain in people's lives, denying them even a decent funeral.
Other characters—a lustful Romeo, rumour-mongers, Shylocks, and whining ladies—take forward this tale of ordinary people.
Dark humour is given a prominent presence throughout the movie. P.F. Mathews, known for his realistic style of writing, has done an excellent job with the screenplay. Just a few scenes and dialogues are enough to establish the depth of the bond between Eeshi and his father. The dialogues reflect the local dialect of Chellanam.
Actors have delivered some of their finest performances in this film, which though revolves around a local region, has a universal appeal. It should come as no surprise that Pauly Wilson, who essayed Vavachan's widow Ponnamma, bagged the Kerala state award for the best supporting actress this year. Eeshi is arguably Chemban Vinod's best role yet. Ee.Ma.Yau asserts the versatility of this actor. Veteran theatre artist Kainakary Thankaraj, who portrays Vavachan, brings his huge experience in theatre onto the silver screen. Vinayakan and Dileesh Pothan have ensured their characters will remain etched in the minds of the audience.
Shyju Khalid's cinematography in Ee.Ma.Yau deserves a big applause. There is an efficient use of wide angle shots in expressing the feelings of the characters, avoiding dependence on close-ups. The night scenes shot without artificial lighting and the colour-tone that suits the melancholic mood are worth mentioning. Sound designer Renganaath Ravee leaves no stone unturned in delivering a perfect sound experience—be it the haunting cacophony in a dead man's house, or the turbulence raging inside and around Eeshi, especially towards the climax. Not to forget the perfect blend of the sea in the backdrop, rain and the music of bands played during funerals. Ravee won the state award for best sound design for this film. Also, Prashanth Pillai's music and Deepu Joseph's editing polish the cinematic gem.
Though originally scheduled for 35 days, Ee.Ma.Yau was shot in just 18 days. Pellissery had said that this film gave him maximum satisfaction in his career.
The place name Chellanam (chella vanam in Malayalam) means a place where no one goes. But, Pellissery is a daring filmmaker who takes his audience anywhere he wants to (remember the surrealistic Double Barrel or the magical realism of Amen, for instance) deliver unique cinematic experiences. After his ambitious project Double Barrel failed at the box-office, he wrote on Facebook: “Sorry guys, no plan to impress.” But, after watching Ee.Ma.Yau, one feels no other filmmaker could impress us better.
Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Cast: Vinayakan, Chemban Vinod, Dileesh Pothan, Pauly Wilson, Kainakary Thankaraj