‘Bramayugam’ movie review: Mammootty’s performance elevates this middling film on the evils of unrestricted power

Barely minutes into the unfolding narrative of ‘Bramayugam’, the mind inadvertently wanders to the concept of a black hole. The somber ‘mana,’ over which Kodumon Potty maintains his eerie dominion, invites all who traverse its paths, yet ominously, none return like the ominous destiny of matter in a black hole. Potty himself professes his detachment from the outer world, his eyes possibly never having basked in sunlight outside the manor, a theory that gains credence as his true origins unfold throughout the story.

Within these ancient walls, the march of time seems to halt, closely mirroring the physics near a black hole, with inhabitants stripped of their grasp on the days or years spent in captivity. The high stakes dice game Potty (played by the formidable Mammootty) wages against the latest visitor (portrayed by Arjun Ashokan) is not just about material wealth, but about the currency of time. To lose would be to surrender one’s life to the unceasing confines of the ‘mana.’ It is in this timeless realm that director Rahul Sadasivan ensnares audiences, virtually casting us alongside the victims at the mercy of the vile Potty, who allows no one to meet his gaze.

Comparisons to Sadasivan’s previous horror exploit ‘Bhoothakalam’ are inevitable, given the blend of mystery and fantasy ‘Bramayugam’ aspires to, adorned with sporadic episodes of mild terror. The cinematic conjuring of a ‘chaathan’ and an ‘yakshi’ bring less fear than what the invisible insinuates, a lesson echoed by ‘Bhoothakalam.’ Even so, the most spine-tingling element of the film is the cold laughter and sonorous voice of Potty, personified with electrifying conviction by Mammootty. Embracing a character that sets itself apart from his storied career, although one might discern a ghostly echo of Bhaskara Pattelar from ‘Vidheyan’ (1994).

The director’s decision to drape ‘Bramayugam’ in shades of black-and-white amplifies the film’s atmospheric tension. Stripping away color diminishes distractions, and transports viewers to the stark 17th century setting, complementing the pervasive air of dread that haunts the dilapidated household. This minimalist approach is mirrored in the narrative structure, which orbits primarily around three characters, leaving scant moments for two secondary players.

Though at junctures the script falters, the salvage comes from Shehnad Jalal’s captivating cinematography, Christo Xavier’s haunting score, and the art department’s dedication, which collectively patch the film’s narrative shortcomings. The foundational tale, reminiscent of familiar folklore, finds redemption not in novelty but in its atmospheric craftsmanship and thematic execution. Yet it is in its struggle to astonish viewers that the film occasionally loses footing, save for an intensely disorientating and claustrophobia-inducing final sequence.

‘Bramayugam’ ultimately ascends when it morphs into a contemplation of absolute power’s corrupting influence, dissecting its capacity to unravel the noblest of intentions. In its twilight moments, the film transcends its historical moorings to deliver a message resonant with contemporary times.

‘Bramayugam’ can be experienced in theatres, where it weaves its archaic yet timeless narrative, a silver screen testament to the power dynamics that haunt and shape human history.

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