Compared to other major film industries in this country, the Malayalam industry has always had a healthy run of middle-of-the-road cinema that respects audience sensibilities along with commercial considerations. The current gen films continue and enhance that trend, and Maheshinthe Prathikaram (MP) is another decent if flawed entry in this stream.
Small-towner Mahesh (Fahad Fasil) operates a photo studio inherited from his father where he takes stereotype awful passport and group photos. Apart from the studio, his time goes in housework and caring for his aged and increasingly dreamy father. Along with Mahesh, the film also gives an affectionate insight into the local (predominantly Christian) community, where everyone knows each other, and we get some charming vignettes of the various characters from this milieu. Mahesh's content and tranquil existence is shaken by two incidents - One is when in the course of trying to mediate in a quarrel, Mahesh is drawn into a fight with a toughie from a neighbouring village and is badly thrashed and humiliated. An angry Mahesh vows to avenge the humiliation, refusing to wear slippers till that moment. The second occurs when his childhood sweetheart breaks off their relationship for a more rewarding marriage prospect.
With revenge as his only aim for the near future, Mahesh's life grows routine and colourless until one day he bumps into the fiesty and outspoken Jimsy. When she rebukes him for his artless photography, he takes the criticism to heart and turns to his father who then passes on some life lessons. Slowly this leads to a relationship between Mahesh and Jimsy and a renewed optimism in his heart, till he learns that she is the sister of the goon that thrashed him. How this influences their relationship and whether Mahesh gets his revenge forms the rest of the film.
To its credit, MP remains restrained in the melodrama, often deflecting it with trenchant humour. The portrayal of the community is also affectionate and charming, reminiscent of the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Sai Paranjpe. While the film does try to have its cake and eat it, I at least appreciate that it doesn't overtly celebrate machismo ("Have these men gone mad?" Jimsy says, in relation to the quarrel between Mahesh and her brother). The spiralling sequence of events that culminates in Mahesh's thrashing is excellently captured and edited. In the above aspects the film is so good that one feels a twinge of disappointment that they could not find a more innovative way to defuse the conflict between the two opponents than a return punch-up. At two hours the film is also a little too leisurely and frequently bogged down by song sequences (I was especially annoyed by the abrupt and pointless flash mob medley).
Saina's blu-ray provides a very good A/V presentation of the film. Detail in close-ups is excellent and colors are strong. The DTS-HDMA track is also solid (I heard it through a stereo setup so can't comment on the surrounds). No extras, but you get separate scene and song menus. But the blu-ray subtitles are rife with spelling and coding errors.