Thursday, November 14, 2019


Release date:
Kerala: November 1, 2019
Delhi: November 8, 2019
Arun Kumar Aravind

Asif Ali, Farhan Faasil, Mukesh, Lal Jr, Samyuktha Menon, Muthumani

Under World’s keenness to be grand and imposing screams out of every cell of its being. It manifests itself in the grandiose lines its characters utter and the angles the cinematographer favours while shooting them. In the end though, the film is as empty as the character played by Mukesh, a septuagenarian politician in jail on corruption charges and from whose words it appears that he is in control of the world he left behind: his ultimate fate proves that he is, in truth, an all-bombast-no-intelligence kind of fellow. Like Under World itself, he amounts to nothing.

Asif Ali here stars as Stalin John, a hooligan and a petty criminal with an inflated sense of self-importance. Farhaan Faasil is Majeed Abdul Rahman, a ruffian for hire. The two end up in the same jail where Mukesh’s Padmanabhan Nair is lodged. Initially, they clash but soon become unlikely allies primed for an assignment from Nair. Lal Jr is Solomon, in whose custody Nair left the Rs 500 crore he filched for which he lost his freedom.

Apart from some atmospheric background music and one slickly executed mobike chase, Under World has little going for it. Ali, Faasil and Mukesh are earnest, but the writing of their characters is too superficial for them to make a lasting impact. So sketchy are they that you deserve a prize if you can make out why Stalin’s lawyer Padmavati (played by Muthumani) cares so much for him.

For the record, Padmavati is the only woman with a notable presence in this narrative. The charismatic Samyuktha Menon from Theevandi is criminally wasted here in a minuscule role.

There are a few seconds here and there when it feels like Under World may perhaps lift itself out of its ordinariness to become something more than a waste of time. Such as when a fugitive loses his mother who he loves and realises that the mere act of attending her funeral is a risk. Or earlier when he sits negotiating with a young woman who becomes collateral damage in a cheque bouncing case against him. Or in the otherwise unscrupulous Solomon’s affection for his wife and child.

Writer Shibin Francis does not have the depth to flesh out these thoughts though. The only nice thing that can be said about the writing is that Under World is not sickening, crude and prejudiced like other recent films of this genre such as The Great Father starring Mammootty, Mikhael starring Nivin Pauly and Kalki starring Tovino Thomas.

Even the one instance when it tries to shock with its violence is almost laughable because of the rubbery look of the severed supposed human limb shown on camera. When Solomon chops off a man’s hand in Stalin and Majeed’s presence, we are given not one, not two, not three but four close-ups of that hand (correct me if there are more), in addition to other shots. Again in the name of realism I suppose, earlier when a companion of Majeed throws up after drinking, the camera stands bang in front of him, giving us a clear view of the puke emerging from his mouth and his vomit-covered tongue. Uff.

These instances of pretentiousness suggest that the single genuinely memorable moment in Under World happened by accident. When a policeman commits an act of unspeakable violence against an important character about half way through the film, instead of moving near plus embellishing the sound design to underline what we are witnessing, the audio chooses not to be exploitative, the camera moves away and we are given a distant overhead shot as a man steps on another’s spine and a torso caves in. It is a moment that made me freeze with horror yet did not feel voyeuristic.

The rest of Under World shows a complete lack of imagination and implies a desire on Arun Kumar Aravind’s part to join the club of masala directors to which Haneef Adeni belongs. Even the title is unimaginative, and the random splitting of the word looks like a last-ditch effort to salvage it. Call it Under World or Underworld if you will, either way it is under-done.

Rating (out of five stars): 1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
160 minutes 

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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