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Muthayya review: A raw, heartwarming tale of small-town dreams and a late bloomer

Debutant Bhaskhar Maurya pays a fond homage to cinema through the life of an elderly man and his dogged determination to act

3/5rating
Muthayya review: A raw, heartwarming tale of small-town dreams and a late bloomer
Muthayya
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 07.30 AM, Nov 12, 2022

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Story:

Muthayya is an elderly man, who owns an acre of land in his village and does odd jobs for a living. An avid film buff, he spends a major part of his life watching movies in the theatre, sitting by his land, talking to his young friend Malli (a mechanic shop owner) and discussing his dreams to see himself on the big screen someday. Despite destiny not favouring him, Muthayya remains hopeful. Will he fulfil his only wish in life? What are the roadblocks that come his way?

Review:

There’s something beautiful about tales of small-town dreams - they come with innocence, they’re a melange of hope, despair and dogged determination amidst the chaos of daily life. Muthayya is all the more special because it views life through the lens of a 70-year-old man and his fascination for acting. There’s very little that works for him in life. His wife dies early, his son remains indifferent to him and the only solace is cinema and his love-hate equation with a young mechanic Malli.

A bulk of Muthayya is about coming to terms with unfulfilled dreams and still being optimistic about the future. The protagonist talks of how films have changed for the worse over time and yet he flocks to every latest release in the theatre to be updated with current-day trends. From acting in plays to watching film shoots to daydreaming of an opportunity that could knock on his door and chatting with friends about his past, Muthayya finds ways to be occupied in a sleepy village.

Beyond the ode to cinema, it’s the raw depiction of interpersonal relationships that hold your attention. The friendship between an elderly Muthayya and a young, laidback Malli is the best of the lot. While Muthayya feels young and rejuvenated with Malli, the latter gets a taste of the vagaries of life and wisdom from the old man. They quarrel like children, verbally and physically and yet stand up for each other in need. They can’t do without one another and the director finds funny ways to assert that.

Muthayya’s son, while selling clothes for a living, doesn’t take his father seriously and is all the time bickering about his unwillingness to sell his land. There’s slight tension in the story when Muthayya time and again emphasises that time is running out for him. Amidst this drama, the subplot on Malli’s love life brings comical relief and the way he initiates conversations with his love interest at a bus stand is filmed delightfully.

Expectedly, the film also discusses the diminishing audience for stage plays and uses it as a tool for Malli to recognise Muthayya’s worth as an actor. The various layers in the simplistic story shine through because of the terrific dialogues and spontaneous performances. There’s a casual, lifelike approach to the storytelling while also offering something poignant, sans any effort to be ‘cinematic’ and it’s the USP of Muthayya.

The rosy depiction of small-town life, the use of ‘non-actors’ and the trajectory of the story remind you of films like Seethakathi, C/O Kancharapalem and Cinema Bandi, but the earnestness in Muthayya makes you look beyond these references. Muthayya particularly flourishes in the last 45 minutes; the dramatic tension is solid and the director succeeds in winning your curiosity. The climax offers a bitter-sweet surprise, leaving you with a wide grin that’s certain to last long.

Sudhakar Reddy is undoubtedly the star of Muthayya; it’s just the effortless performance that the tale needed with the right bursts of enthusiasm and worldly wisdom. The hallmark of a quality actor is his ability to make his craft look like a walk in the park - this applies to both the film’s leads Sudhakar Reddy and the superb Arun Kumar. The supporting cast comprising Purna Chander, Mounika, T Sai Leela and others make a mark while they last.

Divakar Mani’s cinematography doesn’t gloss over the countryside and is happy being a fly on the wall without trying to override the proceedings. Karthik Rodriguez’s music has a rustic, earthy flavour that blends well with the mood of the film. Bhaskhar Maurya is a gifted director, confident of his craft and there are no two things about it.

There’s a lot of talk on the absence of class and sophistication when one discusses the content produced by people from the hinterlands on platforms like Youtube, Tiktok. A film like Muthayya reiterates the significance of such avenues to ensure a level-playing field in art. The film works like a balm to many such undiscovered heroes in small towns who still await an opportunity to showcase their worth.

Verdict:

Muthayya is a story that reminds us it’s never too late to dream and work towards it, regardless of what the world has to say. While portraying the story of one such late bloomer, the film is an engaging tribute to the visual medium and life in the countryside. Sudhakar Reddy and Arun Kumar’s performances, the rustic soundtrack and true-to-life cinematography are the major assets of this promising debut by director Bhaskhar Maurya.

(Muthayya can be watched for free as part of Indic Film Utsav 2022 here )

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