Shylock: Even Mammootty’s wide grin cannot save this hotchpotch

Shylock is a classic character immortalised by William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. The greedy, vengeful, deceitful moneylender literally asks for a pound of flesh from his arch-enemy Antonio if the latter fails to pay back the money borrowed from him. This is a character with fantastic possibilities and in the hands of a creative team, it could have been used to make a masterpiece film. Well, one can only wish.

The creative limits of the team behind Mammooty-starrer Shylock was pretty clear from its tagline ‘The Money Lender’. Slow clap for the genius that worked on this ‘innovative line’. Still, the wide grin and unhinged demeanour of the central character gave some hope that it just might turn out to be another ‘Rajamanickyam’. The drab opening scene laid those hopes to rest, for good.

In the opening scene, two brash young men Adithya Varma (John Kaippallil) and Joel Felix (Vinu Chemmalakuzhy) shove off a security personnel at an airport and drive away in their expensive car without consequences. We are ushered to the intro of villain no 1, Kochi police commissioner, Felix (Siddique) sporting a bald pate, stylishly making a cup of black tea as he intervenes in a land dispute between an old couple and a builder. He favours the hapless couple only to be revealed that it was just a ploy to arm-twist the builder.

Then comes the intro of villain no 2, Prathapan Varma (Kalabhavan Shajon), a big film producer, who is on location of his film. He and Commissioner Felix are partners who deal in real estate worth crores. Prathapan keeps ignoring calls from the moneylender known as the Boss. He brushes off Boss’s lackey Ganesh (Harish Kanaran) when the latter warns him.

As the director says action to the ‘mass intro scene’ of the hero, in comes a white Rolls Royce car with a number plate that says Boss. So, it’s a no-brainer that it is the grand entry of the hero with his aide Balakrishna Panicker (Baiju). Boss (Mammooty) asks Prathapan to pay up and the latter refuses. So, the moneylender grabs the director and leaves, not before bashing up a couple of stunt extras.

Then the film drags on with cat-and-mouse game where Prathapan and Felix try their best to rein in Boss.  But nobody has a clue about Boss’s real motives, not even his aides. Things take a drastic turn when villainous duo cooks up a kidnapping case involving Adithya and arrests Boss. The plan goes awry as Adithya is found dead after being brutally tortured. At this juncture the villains understand that Boss is on a revenge spree.

The name Ajai Vasudev was a warning in itself. It was futile to expect anything better from the director of Rajadhiraja and Masterpiece, both starring Mammooty. Written by Aneesh Hameed and Bibin Mohan, Shylock can be cited as an example of the word hotchpotch. With situations, dialogues and scenes heavily borrowed from Malayalam and Tamil mass films, Shylock sets new benchmark for crassness. Though they try to justify this by making Mammooty’s character a hardcore film buff, it simply fails.

It’s a funny coincidence that Mammooty played the lead in a film named Venicile Vyapari, which means The Merchant of Venice in Malayalam, a few years back. Now in a film named after the villain ‘Shylock’ in the classic play. To his credit, Mammooty seemed to be having fun. But he was limited by a generic script and a run-of-the-mill plot where it only requires him to grandstand and mouth dialogues, that lacked punch.

Tamil actor Rajkiran plays a version of his trademark village heavy with a heart of gold. Siddique’s villainous act has become repetitive and plain boring. He is a talented actor who keeps proving his worth now and again in challenging roles. Here he is just going through the motions. Shajon also plays the scheming Prathapan as a one-note character. Making it forgettable. Baiju and Harish were not given enough to make any impression. Since this film is a toast to testosterone, female characters were disposable. Gopi Sundar’s migraine-inducing score and Renadive’s awkward camera angles did not make it an easy watch.

Mammooty’s Shylock is strictly for his fans. But going by the reaction in the theatre that I saw the film, even they could not sustain the enthusiasm till the end. Just because it is mass, it does not mean that it cannot have class. Avanazhi, Rajamanickyam, Devasuram, Aaram Thampuran and many other films prove this point.

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