Through the flawed protagonist, director Prasobh Vijayan presents a realistic portrait of how a number of men struggle with shedding the harmful assumptions they have when it comes to masculinity.
Last Updated: 10.14 AM, Apr 14, 2023
Newlyweds Sajeev and Geethika’s wedding day does not go according to plan, when the former is beaten up by two ruffians. Unable to let it go, Sajeev obsesses over the events of that day in contrast to his much more level headed wife Geethika, who advises that they let it go and move on. Will Sajeev manage to let it go, or will he let it consume him and his chance at happiness?
“Njan oru aan alle?(I am a man, aren’t I?)”. This particular line perfectly sums up the inner conflict that goes inside of the mind of the protagonist in Prasobh Vijayan’s latest directorial Adi. The film, starring Shine Tom Chacko and Ahaana Krishna, delves deep into the subject of fragile masculinity, and the toxicity that can come with it, through a simple incident that plagued what was to be one of the best days in the lives of the protagonists- Shine’s Sajeev and Ahaana’s Geethika.
While on their way to their wedding venue after their register marriage, the duo have a run in with two local men with short tempers and fast fists. In the tussle that follows, Sajeev is injured and humiliated, and this leaves him shaken in a way that leads him to challenge his own masculinity. Although Geethika advises him to let it go so that they can enjoy their live together, it is easier said than done for Sajeev.
Prasobh explores the theme of fragile masculinity, which can often become toxic, where a number of men carry with them regressive notions of what it means to ‘be a man’. And the fact that this is done through Sajeev, a flawed protagonist who does not, by any means, fit into the stereotype of a ‘macho’ man. Sajeev is funny, lovable, cheerful and quirky, something which comes off in his interactions with those around him, including his new bride Geethika. Unlike typical toxic ‘macho’ men, Sajeev is not one to take his anger out on those around him, and even after the incident, he makes sure to not let his emotions run wild around the people who he loves. But the inner conflicts that churn his mind tell a different story.
The notion that his masculinity was questioned in the attack run circles in Sajeev’s mind, making him obsessed to take action that would redeem his ‘lost’ sense of masculinity. That leads him to the verge of sabotaging his relationships, after he becomes plagued by the notion that what happened to him made his wife lose respect for him.We see his inner demons come out when he explicitly says, on several occasions, that he is a man. Although Sajeev tries to prove his physical prowess, it ironically becomes a prime example of how weak he is when it comes to his own sense of self.
The writing brilliantly explores this in the most subtle of ways for the most parts, with little to no exposition, just through Sajeev’s turmoil. The sea of difference between the way the men and women in Sajeev’s life react to the incident is also a witty commentary at how fragile masculinity can affect a person’s reasoning and rationale. While Geethika is calm and collected in how she reacts to the chaos that follows, we see Sajeev, as well as his male well wishers jump at every chance for payback.
Themes of abuse and gender politics are also explored, in subtle and impactful ways. How abuse is not limited to the physical is shows in the way Dhruvan’s Jobin, the man who assaulted Sajeev, treats his ex partner. He does not lay a finger on her, but abuses her nonetheless.
The depth of the well written characters is definitely one of the highlights of the film, even though the story and plot can leave much to be desired.
Through Adi, director Prasobh Vijayan explores just how damaging regressive notions of masculinity can be, executed brilliantly with well written characters and powerful performances, especially by Shine Tom Chacko.