In only a few days since it broke out on Netflix, Minnal Murali has become the buzziest title of Netflix India. Basil Joseph’s compelling superhero origin story works exceptionally well as the parable of our own homegrown pair of two people using their extraordinary powers to totally opposite effects. It surely stays faithful to the basics of superhero cinema (that is, to an extent). But it’s surely refreshing how it dodges its American variations and proves that a film could and should do better than that.
Another one of the many gifts that the Malayalam film industry keeps giving us, Minnal Murali celebrates its unlikeliness with a middle-of-the-road charm. It is surely elevated by the beauty of its visuals. However, the writing of the film is the real spectacle. Debut writers Anirudh Anirudhan and Justin Mathew write a completely captivating world in which these basic characters etch themselves and stay in our minds forever. While our central character has all the charm and fantasy that makes us root for him, its antagonist at times becomes its biggest strength. Guru Somasundaram, as the injured, socially outcast anti-hero Shibu, has delivered one of the most achingly terrific performances of the year.
Of course, it’s the genius of Basil Joseph which deserves all the applause. He takes two familiar territories and blends them into a subversive mix, which coheres into a fine blast of entertainment. This is commercial cinema at its best and the most satisfying. Here are five movies that can make for a superb double bill with Minnal Murali. Happy reading, and happy watching!
1. Super (2010)
One of the first names which come to our mind when we think of unconventional superhero cinema, is James Gunn. He is a master when it comes to injecting a sort of real-world vitality to the action fantasy genre. Super is one of his not-so-popular credits as a director. It tells the story of Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson), a short-order cook. After his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, he transforms himself into a superhero called Crimson Bolt. But despite his best intentions, he just can’t salvage his heroic skills. Later on, he wears the cape and goes on to punish the rulebreakers.
Like Frank, Jaison of Minnal Murali is an everyday guy- he’s a tailor who wants a visa to America. He doesn’t immediately know what powers he has- he needs his nephew’s help for it. Similarly, Crimson Bolt needs Libby (Elliot Page) to complete his missions. While Minnal Murali absolutely grounds itself into a more local flavour, Super avoids the American indulgences associated with the genre and creates its own black-comedic niche. The two films will make for a quirky double bill!
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2. Chronicle (2012)
Josh Trank’s Chronicle might just be the least similar film to Minnal Murali on the list. And yet, now that we’re talking about updating over the tired formula of a successful superhero film, this is one of the more original films to start with. Starring Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, and Alex Russell, the film is about three high schoolers named Andrew, Matt, and Steve. The incredible discovery of a strange, glowing thing underground changes their lives for good. However, it comes to a twist when these powers start taking over them and reveal the darker alleys inside them.
By the looks of it, Chronicle is another science fiction story that slipped into that super murky thriller. But to say that it doesn’t reinvent that wheel would be a bit of a stretch. It makes a lonely nerd’s rise to power all the more believable and even darkly funny. And of course, the great leading performances save the day. You can most definitely couple it with your watch of Minnal Murali.
3. Maheshinte Prathikaaram (2016)
Dileesh Pothan is one of the finest filmmakers of Malayalam cinema. He blends astute mainstream sensibilities with carefully calibrated situations, which is a nice shift of focus from the plot and character storytelling. Maheshinte Prathikaaram is his directorial debut. The film follows Mahesh Bhavana, who is a simple, affable photographer. He, however, is badly beaten up for little reason. Hereafter, he avenges not to wear slippers until he gets his revenge.
But the film doesn’t go anywhere you might anticipate. It’s genuinely remarkable how brilliantly Pothan avoids displays of masculinity to craft a genuinely funny, warm, and charming tale about a man and his rage that comes from the right place. Yes, neither the film nor the character has anything superheroic about it. However, both Minnal Murali and Maheshinte Prathikaaram very specifically chart a coming-of-age journey full of self-realizations. The internal growths of the character become more important than the outgrowths of the plot. There’s an unhurried approach that veers you away from the anticipation of the climax. Two small, immersive cinematic journeys which need to be taken, better together.
Watch Maheshninte Prathikaaram on Manorma Max
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4. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2019)
I doubt if there’s a more fitting film to double bill with Minnal Murali than Vasan Bala’s minuscule sophomore. Both of the films are witty, original, and homegrown answers to their more internationally recognized counterparts. Both carry their large ambitions with small and creatively careful steps. And yes, you can watch both of them on Netflix together!
Surya is suffering from a disorder that equips him with an ability to withstand pain. This ability/disability is turned into an asset by his grandfather Ajoba, who trains him in martial arts. This skill helps him not only to find love in Supri, who is equally competent. But he also fights Jimmy, the enemy of his master who also happens to be his master’s twin. Although it’s a more generic and stretched film in comparison, MKDNH is singularly helped by Vasan Bala’s vision. Bala has poured all his nostalgic love for the action cinema of yore, and we can clearly see the fervency behind the discrepancies. Basil Joseph has similarly poured his love for comic book storytelling (if more efficiently). While Surya is not an extraordinary superhero-like Jaison from Minnal Murali, both are simple middle-class characters who we have come to recognize from the world around us.
Watch Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota on Netflix
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5. Ayyappanum Koshiyum (2020)
The contrasting dynamic between Jaison and Shibu forms the major conflict of Minnal Murali. Both go by the same name, and while Jaison uses his superhero powers to protect his kinfolk, Shibu uses them to destroy things to clear his way up. But this conflict is slightly more layered than good versus evil. As we follow both versions of alias ‘Minnal Murali’, we discover that both have their own shit to put together. It’s just that time and tide went especially against Shibu. Even as the need to suppress his actions is constantly felt by the viewer, an equal sense of love is felt towards him.
A similar conflict is to be seen in late Sachy’s Ayyappanum Koshiyum. Ayyappan Nair and Koshi Kurien represent two opposite sides of the law. And yet, as we follow them, the lines of morality get blurred. All we see is masculinity locking horns with itself. Yes, Minnal Murali’s tone, approach, and context are vastly different. However, the strange tensions of an increasingly masculine world find a great semblance in both films. Ayyappanum Koshiyum, like Minnal Murali, is a fine exhibit of efficient mainstream filmmaking. Both the films work as a solid example of star power churning out great cinema.
Watch Ayyappanum Koshiyum on Prime Video
Minnal Murali is now streaming on Netflix. Stream it Here