Sunday, September 8, 2019


Release date:
September 6, 2019

Mohanlal, Radikaa Sarathkumar, K.P.A.C. Lalitha, Aju Varghese, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Honey Rose, Siddique

I don’t suppose there is any point in pointing out to directors Jibi and Joju that packing their film with ugly ageist remarks aimed at a woman is at odds with their purported goal of batting for the elderly. Well, never mind then.

The very literally titled Ittymaani: Made In China is about a Kerala-based man called Ittymaani (Mohanlal) who was born – c’mon take a guess ... wait for it ... wait for it – in China. That tenuous connection to our superpower neighbour gives the hero and his mother (K.P.A.C. Lalitha) an excuse to occasionally chat in what I assume is Mandarin to fool their community. It also serves as a spark for a bunch of predictable jokes about Chinese goods.

In the same town lives the wealthy Plaamoottil Annamma (Radikaa Sarathkumar) whose wicked wicked children neglect her. This is the sort of film that does not have time for shades of grey in its characters. And so, the aged are consigned to across-the-board sainthood and painted as unblemished innocents deserving of nothing but our adoration. Annamma’s offspring and spouses, meanwhile, are uniformly depicted as irredeemable evil louts with not a grain of decency in them.

The hero, for his part, has a golden heart. Some of the early jokes in Ittymaani: Made in China come from his penchant for extracting a commission from anyone with whom he has a financial transaction including – shamelessly – the doctors at a hospital where he admits his beloved mother in an emergency. But fear not, people, it is not what you are thinking. By the end of the film you will learn that he is, in fact, Saint Ittymaani.

Many are the lectures delivered about the duties of the youth towards their parents. Simultaneously, the town behaves as if there is nothing more repulsive and shocking than the prospect of an elderly widowed mother marrying, especially if her groom is a younger man. The disgust at the possibility of a senior woman’s kalyanam comes not just from the jerks in the community but also from those who are portrayed as kind and open-minded. The same folk have no qualms about Ittymaani going for a pennu kaanal (meaning, to see a potential bride) at the home of a girl called Jessy Pothen who, comparatively speaking, has the appearance of a child.

The hypocrisy is not confined to the characters in the film. The filmmakers themselves mirror the values of the regressive people they have created. Consider this. Cast in the role of the supposedly old Annamma is Radikaa Sarathkumar who is just 56. While the supposedly young Ittymaani is played by Mohanlal who is 59. And the reason why Jessy Pothen looks like she could be Ittymaani’s daughter is because the actor playing her, Honey Rose, is in reality young enough to be Mohanlal’s kid. 

There is a significant twist right before the interval that could have led Ittymaani: Made in China down a path of brilliance, novelty and progressiveness. However it comes to nought in the face of the story’s ageist, sexist, highly misogynistic true colours.

There are so many double standards in this self-righteous film, so many examples of narrow-mindedness, that a comprehensive listing is not possible. For one, a satellite character compares Annamma to a 1965 model Ambassador, but that is a relatively mild potshot in a narrative that has double entendre flying fast and thick in conversations and gestures. And oh yes, like a string of Mollywood ventures since the formation of the vanitha mathil (women’s wall) in Kerala early this year, this one too features a random flippant remark dissing the MeToo movement.

Jessy Pothen barely utters a couple of sentences throughout Ittymaani: Made In China but she does fulfill the only purpose for which she is inserted into the plot – she looks sexy, she looks youthful and she goes moony over Ittymaani. This, as Mollywood audiences well know, is an essential requirement of most Lalettan films these days, almost as if the megastar is on a mission to prove that he is attractive to much younger and good-looking women. The Annammas of this universe may be scorned and expected to retire into the Vanaprasthashram of their lives and ultimately embrace Sanyas, but heaven forbid that anyone should eye Mohanlal from the very lens through which he and his filmmakers view women of his generation.

Rating (out of five stars): *

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
158 minutes 

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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