The Malayalam film industry shows no dearth of scripts backed movies. Commercial or non-commercial, there’s always a good story attached to it. “Vaashi” is one of them. Directed by debutant Vishnu Raghav, released on the big screens on June 17th, 2022. Starring Keerthy Suresh and Tovino Thomas, this film is a courtroom drama, where a married couple finds themselves on the opposite side of the same case.
The films begin with Advocate Ebin Mathew being recommended by a fellow from the court premises to a potential client. Ebin, an upcoming lawyer at the district court in Trivandrum who doesn’t have a proper office to conduct meetings with his clients, takes help from his senior Advocate, Satheesh Mulloor, at court to utilize his office on a temporary or need-basis. Adv Madhavi Mohan, a junior at a reputed law firm, is a lawyer at the same court and is a good friend of Ebin as well as the senior Advocate Mulloor. Unexpectedly, Madhavi loses a case assigned to her by her superior, making her leave her law firm and deciding to start an independent firm with Ebin. Ebin and Madhavi slowly start spending more time with each other and eventually fall in love.
As their marriage is about to get fixed, Ebin’s politically influential brother-in-law, through his contacts, makes him the public prosecutor at the district court. Ebin’s first case as the public prosecutor is a young girl, Anusha, who files a case against her boyfriend/boss for rape as he had intercourse with her under the pretext of marrying her. While Ebin is representing Anusha, Gautam, the accused, is represented by Madhavi, who happens to know Gautam’s family too. While Gautam denies making any promise of marriage to Anusha, he says that the intercourse was consensual and he did not rape her while he still liked her. Ebin and Madhavi, now on opposite sides of the case and with their marriage coming up, decide to go ahead with representing the respective clients while keeping their professional lives separate from their personal ones. What happens as the case further complicates their relationship forms the crux of “Vaashi.”
“Vaashi,” which means stubborn in Malayalam, is not a great film, but it is not a bad film either. The story by Janiz Chacko Simon is rather simple, and so is the screenplay by Vishnu Raghav. The film shows what the lawyers working tirelessly go through on a daily basis to represent their clients, guilty or not. Their day-to-day business is showcased quite well in the film. It makes us wonder why there hasn’t been a full-fledged film on how lawyers function daily, how the court runs, and at what pace the judiciary functions.
The screenplay is simple. Director Vishnu doesn’t add unnecessary elements to drag the film or useless twists in the climax just for the sake of shocking the audience. The story and screenplay take a straight road and do not deviate from the actual plot. In the second half of the film, the writers throw a lot of light on the case Madhavi and Ebin represent, and the rights and wrongs of it. Anusha accuses Gautam of rape because he got into a physical relationship with her, claiming he knew she was in love with him, so she assumed he would marry her. Gautam denies making any such promise to Anusha, but admits he liked her and the physical relations they shared were consensual. The films try to reason about who is right and who is wrong in this case. There is Ebin, a man representing the victim, while Madhavi is representing the alleged accused. The swap of roles is refreshing to watch. The films put forth a balanced perspective regarding sensitive cases, such as where the line is drawn when it comes to consent.
The direction by Vishnu again is rather easy to follow. Vishnu has full control over the direction of the film, which thankfully never deviates. There was only one plot point that was introduced but did not have a proper conclusion. The character of Ebin’s brother-in-law is projected as an influential politician who has the power to make or break things, but it does not go anywhere, nor does he contribute to the plot in any manner.
“Vaashi” overall has nothing much to offer other than the workings of an Indian court in the state of Kerala. I wish the writers and the director had added more layers of complexity to make the film more juicy and engaging. The screenplay just wasn’t engaging enough. The performances of the actors, especially the leads, kept the film floating and engaging enough. Tovino Thomas is charming as Advocate Ebin Mathew, and Keerthy Suresh is equally good as Advocate Madhavi. They both share a crackling chemistry, which is hard to ignore. Baiju, as Advocate Mulloor, is also a great addition to the cast. “Vaashi” is a good film, if not a great one. As the masses put it, it is strictly a one-time-watch film.
“Vaashi” is a Malayalam language Indian film, now streaming on Netflix with subtitles.