Sathyan Anthikad’s Jomonte Suvisheshangal is catching a lot of criticism for its similarities with the recent Jacobinte Swargarajyam, but that’s like accusing one love story of being like another. This type of melodrama is a genre of its own: a twist here, a tweak there, and you can name 5000 similar films. We have here a millionaire father, Vincent (Mukesh), and his large family. The youngest son, Jomon (Dulquer Salmaan), is the most irresponsible. But when push comes to shove, when Vincent loses everything and goes from a Benz to a bicycle, three guesses as to which son is going to stick around to help! Remove the father’s millions, and you get Saaheb. Add a few extra life lessons (and Kamal Haasan on autopilot) and you get Uyarndha Ullam. Transform the boy from son to servant and you get Padikkadha Medhai, Avtaar, Vaazhkai.
But give us good actors (casting is crucial in these films; we may not buy these very contrivances with a different set of actors), give us characters we can identify with and root for, and the director can get away with blue murder. He does, actually. Jomonte Suvisheshangal is completely, utterly unoriginal. But I dare you to resist the warm chemistry between Mukesh and Dulquer Salmaan. Vincent is a benign shark. He makes heartless deals (once, after a funeral), but the film punctures his self-importance by making him vain – he loves it when people think he’s Jomon’s brother. Jomon, meanwhile, keeps goofing up, but, uh, he’s played by Dulquer Salmaan. Would you have the heart to punish him? Father and son make the clichés sing.
It helps that the tone isn’t melodramatic (though the material certainly is). When Jomon sees his once-rich father labouring away at a textile factory, you expect tears, violins, a couple of inserts from those once-rich days to hammer home how things have changed. But Jomon is just annoyed, and the sentiment is saved for later. The film doesn’t linger on the sad beats. We get a moment, and we are quickly ushered to the next scene, with Vidyasagar’s upbeat score reassuring us that nothing really bad is going to happen. The worst comes when Catherine’s (Anupama Parameswaran) super-rich mother disses (and dismisses) Jomon. Poor Jomon. The instant he saw Catherine at church, he thought she was The One,. How did he know? Because the Breeze™ told him, silly. Of all the people in that hallowed hall, the Breeze™ tousled only her hair and ruffled only her veil – in slow motion. If that isn’t a sign, what is?
Vaidehi (Aishwarya Rajesh) is, mercifully, a less ethereal creature. Jomon runs into her after he’s suffered life’s hard knocks. She tells him she became a loner after her mother died, and she stopped smiling. A small touch like that makes a character come alive. Most characters come with these small touches. The relative who keeps taking bribes and who’s married to a stupid woman. Jomon’s older brothers who are money-minded but not really the callous wretches from Baghban. The middle-class father (Manobala) who delights in his acquisition of a tiny house. The sister-in-law who cares. The sister-in-law who seems to care. You think the latter is playing Cupid with Jomon-Catherine because she likes him, wants him to get the girl of his dreams. Later, you see it’s more because netting Catherine will mean netting her vast sums of money.
A lot of this is very generic, but the actors stick, and so the characters stick. It’s too bad many of them vanish almost entirely after a point – the film settles on Jomon and Vincent as they begin to work their way up. You can’t take a minute of this seriously, especially the way a Frenchwoman is worked in. But the feel-good factor is through the roof (I like films with no villains, with just nice people around), and Dulquer Salmaan anchors the film nicely. He smiles that smile and makes you look past the trite premise, the fact that you’ve seen it all before. He makes you buy snake oil, which is just another way of saying he’s a bona fide star.
- Jomonte Suvisheshangal = Jomon’s gospels
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