Movie Review: Godha isn't Dangal or Sultan... and that's a good thing!

by - June 02, 2017

When a dear friend recommended I go for the Malayalam movie Godha and told me it had wrestling as the backdrop, my mind automatically turned towards the Bollywood superhits of last year, Dangal and Sultan.

Sultan was a Salman show all the way, packing in dollops of romance into a tale of redemption. Dangal showcased the rise of the women wrestlers even as it kept Aamir high up on the pedestal, the aura of his character's stern presence felt in every scene.

Godha is no Dangal or Sultan. Thank God for that.

In young director Basil Joseph's follow up to the enjoyable Kunjiramayanam, we once more find ourselves inside a serene little hamlet in Kerala where engineering student Anjaneya Das and his friends from the village cricket club are (unsuccessfully) fighting for the rights to play at the local ground 'Manayathu Vayal' which holds sentimental value to his father, an aging but revered ex-wrestler, Captain.

When Anjaneya is sent to Punjab for his M tech degree, he comes across a firebrand of a Punjabi woman, Aditi Singh. A fellow student, she has her own personal and wrestling demons hidden within. Circumstances arise that find Anjaneya returning back to his village and a short while later, a banana-chip-munching, Hindi-speaking Aditi is at his doorstep too, much to the consternation of everyone at home and in the village.

Her true journey begins from there.

Where the Bollywood movies focused on the star vehicles Salman and Aamir, Godha rightfully focuses on all the pieces of the final panorama.

You have the best of 'old school' Malayalam cinema.

  • Instant rejoinders and caustic replies,
  • Focusing on the 'characters' instead of the 'stars',
  • The village locality that is at each others throat but unites when needed,
  • Flawed central characters who make mistakes,
  • Romance is a very tiny strain in a larger plot, something commonly seen in the best of Sathyan Anthikad movies,
  • Life lessons without being preachy,
  • The reverence to old school traditions - in this case, the art of wrestling.

Importantly, everyone is allowed their moment to shine.

Tovino Thomas as the young hot-headed Anjaneya with no real purpose in life matures as the movie progresses, determined to be considered a good and worthy man. His comical timing with the ever-dependable Aju Varghese is brilliant, both playing off each other well. I give extra credit to him for being secure enough to allow the debut heroine to be the focus of the movie - it is an excellent sign for Malayalam cinema when art is not compromised by egos.

Renji Panicker is da maan! He has so much fun playing the grumpy, stern dad and fearsome old wrestler of the village and can make you laugh without changing an expression in his face as everyone reacts to his presence. Yet, in one single conversation in the second half, you see the heart and wisdom of the father who loves his son.

an absolutely magnificent woman making her Malayalam cinema debut, Wamiqa Gabbi. Her journey is the driving force behind Godha

In the end though, the star vehicle here is not an established Salman or Aamir but an absolutely magnificent woman making her Malayalam cinema debut, Wamiqa Gabbi. Her journey is the driving force behind this tale, uniting the village as she gets a second chance at living her dreams.

Wamiqa nails the role. She is spirited when needed and heaven help the lout who eve-teases her! And yet, early on, with people celebrating a wedding around her, her voice cracks as she delivers a heartfelt plea to a speechless Anjaneya, a cry still relevant to women in India today unfortunately. Her Aditi Singh is a way better testament to feminism than any of the characters in the other two wrestling movies.

Other factors:

Is the movie perfect? No. Focusing on everyone's personal journey in this village Kannadikkallu can be a tough juggling act and occasionally, the tempo is uneven. But these are minor complaints in a movie that had everyone in my theater smiling and reliving moments as they walked out.
I personally went in not having seen a single trailer so I was pleasantly surprised to find I loved the songs by Shaan Rahman. You can decide for yourself. The song below is one I really enjoyed.

Similarly, extra marks for cinematography. It was always going to be tough getting the wrestling sequences to match the more popular and expensive Bollywood movies but a good effort was made.

Director Basil Joseph's first movie too had its base in a lot of characters set in a fixed (fictional) locale but with Godha, the improvement is visible and worthy of respect. He has got a good knack for both comedy and pathos, without overdoing either. I know I will be looking forward to his next venture after this.

Final thoughts

If you enjoyed movies like Vellimoonga or Oru Indian Pranaya Katha, this movie is for you. Godha is a movie that combines the best of old school Malayalam cinema with a very fresh take on the 'tale of second chances' and 'sports movie' genre that deserves the applause it is getting today from viewers across the state.

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