Tuesday, February 4, 2020


Release date:
Kerala: January 23, 2020
Kerala: January 24, 2020
Ajai Vasudev

Mammootty, Siddique, Kalabhavan Shajohn, Rajkiran, Meena, Baiju Santhosh, Hareesh Kanaran, Hareesh Peradi, Bibin George, Arthana, John Kaippallil
Malayalam with Tamil 

He is known simply as Boss or Shylock to the film industry. He has held producers in a vice-like grip since 2016. This nameless moneylender (hence the nickname, in a mindless nod to Shakespeare) is played by Mammootty, whose sole goal through the insufferable Shylock seems to be to emphasise his conviction that his stature remains intact and that he is a pan-generational star.

No really, I am not talking about subliminal messaging – he literally says so here.

Actually, scratch out that paragraph. Because “subliminal” is a word that should not even be whispered in the vicinity of this film directed by Ajai Vasudev who earlier made the Mammootty-starrers Rajadhiraja and Masterpiece. Every point here is stressed ad nauseam, the background score is loud enough to make a hole in the ozone layer and Mammootty’s character actually says in the closing minutes, “This is a game that will be a massive hit of the year,” in response to Villain No. 1 telling him that his game is up. This exchange is followed by the same bad guy (the Ernakulam Police Commissioner Felix John, played by Siddique) telling Shylock that the era of heroes like him is over, we have entered the age of villains and so he needs to look for secondary roles. To this, Shylock – who does not pretend to be anything but Mammukka’s alter ego – replies after bashing up a bunch of men: across generations, Boss is still the hero.

Okay okaaaay okaaaayyyy, got it: Mammootty rules.

This conversation in the middle of the bloody climactic fight follows about two hours of a singer screeching out a signature refrain for Mammootty every time he, in his avatar as Shylock, wallops a villain or spouts a grandiloquent line.

The music of Shylock is so painful and the narrative so clichéd, that if this were an Easter week release, Jesus might have raced back into his tomb begging never to be resurrected. And don’t get my imagination started on paavam William Shakespeare’s reaction to the appropriation of one of his most famous characters for this story’s protagonist.

About that ‘story’... So Shylock is a guy with a swagger, fancy-schmancy sunglasses, shoes that the camera loves, expensive cars and a misplaced sense of humour that he employs to lighten the mood in the bloodiest of scenes. The only few seconds of fun in Shylock come in its opening minutes, but are soon lost to repetitiveness. The first half of the film sets up a clash between the hero, along with his non-descript sidekicks played by Baiju Santhosh and Hareesh Kanaran, and the slimy film producer Prathapa Varma (Kalabhavan Shajohn) whose partner in crime is Felix John.

When one of Shylock’s flunkeys questions him about his uncharacteristic brutality towards Team Varma, our man launches into a loooong generic flashback brimming with generic sunshine and song, generic flowers, generic family, generic friendship, two generic pretty women and generic romance that all add up to two generic enmities, generic tears and ultimately, a generic quest for vendetta. Tamil actor Rajkiran plays Ayyanar, the generic motivation for Shylock seeking generic revenge against Varma, John and their generic murderous gang. In this portion, Shylock has little curls and is known as Vaal (meaning: tail), a nickname explained by some pseudo-philosophising about a serpent. Never mind what.

Ho hum.

To compensate perhaps for the absolute lack of novelty in the script, camerawork and all else here, multiple references are made to other films and their Tamil superstars, human beings are killed by the dozen and we are treated to numerous close-ups of various types of knives slashing various parts of various bodies. Since a certain kind of formulaic Malayalam film can only be explained by comparison, here are a whole bunch to help you fully understand this one: Shylock is as boring as the Mohanlal starrer Big Brother released last week, the violence in this blood-spattered film is of a lesser degree than Kalki, women are microscopic sidelights in the plot but it is not misogynistic in the manner of Kasaba and Ittymaani: Made In China, and though Mammootty struts about here too, his preening is not offensive as it was in The Great Father.

Here is the saddest comparison of all though: Shylock is a reminder that Mammootty’s soul-searching performances in brilliant films like Peranbu and Unda are an exception to his current norm that is exemplified by Shylock.

Rating (out of 5 stars): 0.25

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
131 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

Posters courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/Mammootty/                 

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