In his previous film, “Bhoothakaalam” (2022), Rahul Sadasivan effectively portrayed the dysfunctionality that often seeps into familial bonds and causes fright. While committing the film to a horror film’s discipline, Rahul established a sense of danger. But the danger didn’t lay as much in the hostility of the house as it did in the hostility of a past catching up to a person’s present. The baggage of a past can incapacitate a person. However, its resolution lies in a confrontation. “Bhoothakaalam” was successful in getting the message across without being didactic. It was this restrained yet passionate approach to the genre that made Rahul Sadasivan an interesting filmmaker. Therefore, the previews of his next feature, “Bramayugam,” were bound to generate excitement, especially since they indicated a folk horror starring Mammootty.

The story revolves around Paanan (played by Arjun Ashokan), a court singer of a marginalized caste who is running away to escape slavery after the fall of his patron. He gets lost in the forest and ends up in an isolated and partially dilapidated mansion to look for anything edible after days of extreme hunger. However, the mansion turns out to be inhabited by Kodumon Potti, the master (played by Mammootty) and the cook (played by Siddharth Bharathan). Kodumon offers Paanan his hospitality in exchange for Paanan’s services as a singer.

When Paanan humbly apologizes for rejecting the offer as he has to reach his mother, Kodumon criticizes him for his ungratefulness. An intimidated Paanan is compelled to step into the house in the role of a guest but, nevertheless, bound by the patronage of a master. As days go by, Paanan finds himself entrapped in the treacherous methods of Kodumon and learns that it’s not possible to escape or earn freedom from this bondage. The cook informs Paanan about the history of the mansion, and a horrifying mythology is revealed centering on Kodumon Potti and his true identity.

In one of the key dialogues, the cook mentions that those with power like to toy with the freedom of those without it. This game doesn’t have a specified cause. The powerful like to revel in the suffering of those they subjugate. In the function of caste, the oppressor caste pretends to be benevolent, throws a few morsels of capital before the downtrodden, and secures their subjugation through treachery. Once they have the working class-caste in their bondage, they use every means necessary to sustain the status quo and to make the social bonds unbreakable.

Any attempt to transcend that barrier is met with violence. The only possible way to eliminate the oppression is the erasure of all markers that assign the oppressors their power, the power derived from the identity that they have internalized, an identity with which the default possession of resources is associated. In the myth of the film, when this marker, to which Kodumon’s life is attached, is extinguished, Kodumon is reduced to a human who’s on a level playing field with Paanan and the cook. But even when the powerful are stripped of their possessions, deceitfulness remains a characteristic.

A still from Bramayugam (2024).
A still from “Bramayugam” (2024).

The anti-caste reading, however, is limited and interpretive. It is not an essential takeaway of the narrative. In its metaphorical character, “Bramayugam” is about the struggle for power between the privileged. The ability to yield power at will and own the freedom and time of other people is lucrative to the most. The vital question arises when the instrument of power is at your disposal and whether you choose to destroy it or wield it. 

“Bramayugam” also excels at period setting. Considering the film is set in the 16th century, the filmmakers have meticulously composed the cooking sequences. The differences from modern cooking stand out, along with the unavailability of many of the ingredients that were later brought into the land by the colonizers. The makeup and styling department deserves as great applause for this film as the same departments for “Tumbbad” (2018) received.

“Bramayugam” is definitely a film to be watched in theatres, given its aesthetic appeal and the powerful performance showcase it has from all three actors. Mammootty’s greatness extends beyond his acting merit, for he is continuously experimenting with the kind of films he wants to be a part of. These films not only exploit his abilities but they further Kerala’s cinematic landscape in terms of scale, politics, and genres. “Bramayugam” is a fine example of the same. With two genre films of indigenous essence, Rahul has positioned himself as a great horror film director of the contemporary era, only to be rivaled by Rahi Anil Barve.

Read More: Tumbbad [2018]: ‘Venice Film Festival’ Review

Bramayugam (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Wikipedia
Bramayugam (2024) Movie Cast: Mammootty, Arjun Ashokan, Sidharth Bharathan
Bramayugam (2024) Movie Genre: Horror, Thriller | Runtime: 2h 19 Mins
Where to watch Bramayugam

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