wolf, directed by shaji azeez and coming from the imagination of gr indugopan, one of the most talented storytellers in contemporary Malayalam literature, has enough factors to make it a fascinating mind game. like love and irul before it, a house becomes a playground for intense characters. for much of its runtime, its three lead actors have us gripped like a vice until a baffling climax brings it all crashing down. Fortunately, wolf isn’t irul (it doesn’t have a casting problem like this last one), but both movies have a wobbly third act that undoes everything that came before.
director: shaji azeez
Reading: Wolf malayalam movie review
Cast: Arjun Ashokan, Samyuktha Menon, Irshad
transmitting on: zee5
based on the tale of indugopan, chennaya, wolf begins with sanjay (arjun ashokan) on his way to see his would-be asha (samyuktha menon), hoping to surprise her. when she opens the door, she is very surprised, and visibly shaken as well. The first half belongs entirely to Arjun and Samyuktha, who effectively deliver one anxiety-provoking moment after another. It soon becomes clear that these two are not a match made in heaven. she doesn’t want him there for valid reasons from her point of view and, of course, from us. every minute that passes in her house makes us more uncomfortable.
asha has a conservative mother who is not home at the moment, and the daughter is concerned that sanjay’s presence at this hour will make her a subject of gossip. (suspicious mama sounds like the male version of another indugopan creation, amminipilla, from her brilliant tale, amminipilla vettu case). Furthermore, Asha sees Sanjay’s short temper and rude manners, even with her close friends, as reason enough not to want him as her better half. she expresses her doubts about spending the rest of her life with him. she becomes increasingly irritated and desperate to make sure that it would not be like this after her marriage. but we also have the feeling that asha is hiding something from us. to make matters worse, the afternoon announces the closing on the same night. Her mother won’t get home on time, and since Sanjay’s residence is hours away, the policemen stationed outside her house (shine tom chacko, jaffer idukki) forbid her to travel.
The film only gets more intense after a third character, Joe (Irshad), enters the scene; but our fun lasts only up to a point. In an interview with us, Shaji Azeez called the third character a ‘surprise,’ and with that in mind, I will not describe who this man is and why he is in the story. but it would be safe to say that shaji and indugopan use it to launch a discourse on the complexities of the male-female dynamic, the deep-seated patriarchal mentality of Indian men, the agency of a woman when it comes to her personal choices, and how someone the ‘image’ on social media doesn’t necessarily tell you who they really are. Although Sanjay’s character traits are clear to us, we later realize that the other two characters are not exactly what we were initially led to believe.
For the most part, the film gives us the effect of watching a well-constructed play, aided by proper staging and camera movements. it’s fun to see all three characters slowly figuring out their true selves. the interaction reminded me of the mike nichols movie closer. however, lobo has a problem: inconsistency in character development. the main problem here is the contradictory behavior of the characters: none of them stay true to their arc. sometimes they exhibit behavior that makes one wonder if a person is trying to be three different people. It seems that they are not sure of themselves, but they like to make you believe that they are.
When the movie ends, all three characters undergo unconvincing character transformations, leaving one feeling cheated. (The climax reminded me of a popular Shaji Kailas movie written by Ranjith. You may remember the title once you see Lobo.) After all that long, colorful, and occasionally insightful dialogue, you wonder why why a couple of characters decided to take a different route at the end. and i’m still trying to figure out the casting of shine tom chacko and jaffer idukki as those cops. were they necessary? perhaps wolf had the potential to be another movie worthy of discussion like ishq or even great Indian cuisine, but that ending…
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