Saturday, February 17, 2024


Release date:

February 15, 2024


Rahul Sadasivan 


Mammootty, Sidharth Bharathan, Arjun Ashokan, Amalda Liz, Manikandan R. Achari




Rahul Sadasivan’s Bramayugam comes to theatres two years after Bhoothakaalam in which he deftly wove themes of mental health, care giving, substance abuse and other pressing concerns into a supernatural/psychological horror drama. Bhoothakaalam starring Revathy and Shane Nigam was terrifying and thoughtful in equal measure, but the burden of expectations is not the reason why Bramayugam does not match up to it. The reasons are simpler.


Behind the gloss and beyond an in-form Mammootty, Bramayugam is not scary despite its promising atmospherics. It is also flimsy for a considerable stretch of time until it begins to lay out its caste politics. The film’s allegorical take on caste proves to be muddled and insensitive.


Bramayugam (The Age of Madness) is set in 17th century Malabar where Thevan (Arjun Ashokan), a starving folk singer, chances upon a decrepit mansion belonging to a Brahmin family. The grouchy caretaker (Sidharth Bharathan) is unwelcoming. Both are placed low on the ladder of the caste system, and the elderly master of the house Kodumon Potti (Mammootty) belittles the latter for being disdainful towards the visitor, welcoming the young man warmly instead. 


Kodumon Potti rarely has guests. This could be because his home is in what appears to be a land far far away. Or perhaps not. Thevan soon realises that all is not as it seems in this decaying homestead where mysterious sounds are heard from areas declared off limits for him. It is not long before we learn that he is a pawn in a game in which the dice is controlled by an unexplained force. 


Sadasivan gets Bramayugam off to a good start by creating a sense of mystery in the forest where we meet Thevan. This tone is sustained till the end with the aid of Shehnad Jalal’s camerawork, Jothish Shankar’s art direction and Jayadevan Chakkadath’s low-key sound design. 


Bramayugam is defined by its magnificence, ranging from scenes of desolate natural beauty to the eerie innards of Kodumon Potti’s home. Even shots of a man cooking in a darkened kitchen look ominous here, as are close-ups of the handful of characters in this sagaThe decision to make this a black-and-white film further enriches the imagery and adds to its folklorish feel. 


Giant landscapes are framed in Bramayugam in such a manner as to dwarf the people in the story and intimidate the viewer, in a style I’ve come to love in recent years in chilling Scandinavian thrillers. The resemblance is confined to the look. Bramayugam threatens to turn frightening, but never actually does. After a while, the spectacle is window dressing for a thin story that picks elements from Indian mythology– a yakshi here, a chaathan there – without saying anything novel until it reveals its flawed hand in the matter of caste. 


Initially, Sadasivan makes an insightful point when he shows Kodumon Potti luring Thevan with a pretence of egalitarianism before entrapping him. However, with this episode of truth telling, the film is being as deceptive as Kodumon Potti himself, because Sadasivan’s larger point turns out to be that dominant communities are no more power hungry than those they’ve historically oppressed, and the sole difference between them is that one lot hold the reins in a social system while the others are its victims for now. This is an uninformed blanket statement. On the one hand, it’s true we’re currently witnessing the outcome of a once-oppressed people transforming into oppressors – read: the genocide in Gaza being committed by Israel, the country formed in the 1940s as a homeland for white European Jews after the Holocaust. It is just as true though that this has not been the journey of all persecuted communities. Notice how countries formerly colonised by Europeans have not run around the world colonising other countries since they themselves got Independence. Notice that post-apartheid South Africa is vocally advocating for Palestinians. Notice the scores of white Jewish people, including Holocaust survivors, protesting against the genocide. Know too that Israel’s conduct is a result of numerous factors including but not confined to white racism that prompted post World War II Europe to consider the brown people of Palestine dispensable, and Europe and North America’s oil interests in the Middle East. 


Bramayugam’s script does not explore the theme of oppression with depth. Instead it chooses to whitewash oppressors. The writing also betrays a troubling upper-caste view of caste on two fronts. 


(Spoiler alert) The earliest clue that a certain character is not the Brahmin individual he claims to be comes from his food habits. It’s not that this person eats meat, but the savagery with which he eats it that is supposed to be a hint. Portraying meat-eaters as crude, equating meat-eating with animalism and associating unsophisticated meat consumption with Muslims and ‘the other’ has become a hallmark of the right-wing ecosystem and right-wing Hindi cinema in the Modi era (PadmaavatPanipatTanhajiAdipurushAnimal). Bramayugam employs the same symbolism in the context of caste in the Malayalam language. 


Bramayugam’s thesis seems to be that Europeans were able to colonise India due to power struggles among Indians. While disunity in the subcontinent did help Europeans, the problem with Bramayugam is that it implies an equivalence between Brahmins and Dalits in this regard, and trains its accusatory finger primarily – metaphorically – at the downtrodden. For a metaphor to work, it must work all the way, but in Bramayugam what we are shown, literally, is white intruders taking advantage of  a ‘half caste’ and a lower caste person being at loggerheads after escaping a demonic tyranny, while the first victim of the battle among Indians in the narrative was a Brahmin. More to the point, a Brahmin we don’t meet at all, as a result of which we don’t get to determine whether he was good, bad or evil, while we get to see the evil in the rest of the social order. 


It’s also strange that in the almost-all-male world that Sadasivan builds in Bramayugam, the only female presence is a beautiful, blood-sucking seductress.


Amalda Liz as the yakshi is just an eye-catching body and face on display. Manikandan R. Achari gets similar dismissive treatment in the opening scenes. This is the second film in three weeks to reduce this gifted actor to a prop. The other was Malaikottai Vaaliban. Women are objectified in cinema worldwide, Malayalam cinema is objectifying this man probably because most writers are unable or unwilling to envision a black-skinned actor as anything but exotica. 


Only three roles count in Bramayugam. Mammootty and Sidharth Bharathan deserve as much credit for the film’s menacing air as its visual landscape does. In the Indian arena, it takes courage for a star as big as Mammootty to take on a role that is meant to be as repugnant as this character is, but he does it with evident relish. Both actors also benefit immensely from the embrace of Shehnad Jalal’s cameraArjun Ashokan’s performance is not quite as immersive as theirs here, but he does a fair job. 


Bramayugam is a great-looking film based on a script that quickly runs out of steam, until it revs itself up to take a terribly skewed stand on caste and colonialism.


Rating (out of 5 stars): 1.5   


Running time:

139 minutes 


Poster courtesy: IMDB 


  1. Oh, come on, appreciate the film for what it is: a kind of mythical tale told in a gripping manner. Dont drag caste and religion into everything. I do not think the writer or director had any of the intentions being attributed to them by this reviewer who appears to be the real biased person. The film deserves 4 out of 5, not a ridiculous 1.5!

    1. A filmmaker has made a film about caste, but you want the reviewer not to talk about caste in the film? That makes no sense.

    2. Just because you were unable to understand the movie and its politics doesn’t mean others can’t. Most people with a brain can understand the theme of caste and oppression

    3. The movie was set in an era when casteism was prevalent. The movie itself isn't about caste and oppression. It's a story. I thought it was well told and very well shot.

  2. you clearly haven’t understood a thing. you’re speaking out of ignorance. also, your language is terrible. work on that. stop posting without comprehending and the world will get a little greener.

  3. truly weird misreading of the entire film. spoiler alert: the only personification of good in the movie is Thevan and even in his dying moments he begs the upper caste man to relinquish the ring because it’s always the commoners who are beaten down. it’s he who dies and the chathan who assumes his identity to escape. also that scene towards the end with the arrival of the Portuguese was to show how the machine age had come with modern weaponry and age of empire taking over the old world. could there have been more female characters? sure. but this was a chamber horror story about men and their struggle to gain the upper hand in every scenario. it’s kind of sad film critics get so reactionary when films like this try to weave in caste and power into the narrative. also, will add one more thing about the complete ignorance of South African politics on the part of Anna Vetticad: sure, the SA govt did a much needed intervention at the ICJ on behalf of Palestine but let’s not over-egg the pudding by showcasing the ANC govt there as pure heroes. They have been riddled with corruption accusations and not so long ago there were anti-migrant riots in that country as well. if anything Bramayugam shows how post colonial societies will struggle to get justice for all even if their revolutions were based on the ideas of rights for all. It’s too bad that all this just flew over your head. But then again you went there with preconceived notions and have come out with a rant of a review without thinking further on what the movie was actually showing.

    1. Wierdoooo, your interpretations are just interpretations. They are not facts. Insecure much? Arrogant much? Bullying much? The film belongs to all people after you release it and all people have a right to interpretations.

  4. The demon 😈 corrector is🔥
    Wow award winning performance 🐐💯 OSCAR💯

  5. Too much wokeness in this review. Oh come on. This movie is not at all about caste oppression or class oppression. It's just a folklore we hear us from our grandmas when we were kids. Simple as that. How can you called yourself a reviewer when you don't even understand what you are watching?

  6. Zero media literacy wow. If you can’t even see the obvious theme of cycle of oppression and the caste references, you should quit watching movies.

  7. What a rubbish review bro you need to understand that the filmmaker don't want to spoon feed the politics that you are interested in and your headline is that the film is not scary? Bro grow up this is a work of art Film is art it films are not here to serve social justice duffer

  8. Manja pitham pidicha avalku ellaam manja aayite kaanathollu ennu paranje oru chollu undu. Cry harder, misandrist. Nothing makes men more happy than seeing grade A misandrists like you getting so much frustrated in life. As if your whole existence and the purpose of your life is to get offended and to stay "oppressed". Muh oppression much, huh?

    All you low lives do is micromanaging every unplanned, unapproved human activity in hopes of crushing a spirit, of anyone, that is actually "thinking and alive". Your hate ideology has already failed the human condition and is dying in the West. You people are nothing more than slogans-spewing automatons, fuelled by hatred of everything real and spontaneous. Sad excuse for a human being I must say.

  9. Maam for you Neru is 2.75 and Utter crap valibhan is 2 and Bramayugam is 1.5. If you are a Mohanlal fan it’s ok but don’t be biased show some professionalism.