Summer heat is beating down with relentless ferocity & what better way to cool off than sit in the comforts of a theatre watching an engaging film. So just as in every Vishu season, the film makers have drawn swords to exhibit their might to draw the audience's attention. Without doubt, one of the most eagerly awaited among the lot is Aashiq Abu's "22 Female Kottayam", whose previous venture "Salt N' Pepper" was a blockbuster creatively & financially. So can Aashiq make it a double whammy & prove that his previous hit wasn't a fluke???
Being from the Medical profession, I do understand the plight of the nurses be it their reduced pay as evidenced by strikes in various hospitals or the thankless nature of their profession. However, the conditions are much more rosier abroad financially leading to the exodus of a large number every year. It is this very subject that Aashiq has dwelled upon in his latest venture. Tessa K Abraham (Rima Kallingal), is a nurse hailing from Kottayam who works in Bangalore. Just like her colleagues, she dreams of going to Canada & makes efforts for the same. It's during one of these Consultancy rendezvous that she gets acquainted with Cyril (Fahad Fazil). In time, they fall in love & she moves into his abode. But all hell breaks loose when she gets brutally raped & though Cyril bays for the rapist's blood, Tessa refrains him as she tries to pick up pieces of her life. But will things ever be the same as before???
Aashiq Abu has chosen a socially relevant topic to which we blissfully render a blind eye as if to make ourselves believe that we are oblivious to all such atrocities. There are many sequences that hits us hard, the prime example being the brutal sexual assault which is definitely one of the best ever cinematographed in Malayalam films. The script by Abhilash Kumar & Shyam Pushkaran was fantastic & though they claim to be loosely inspired by "Ek Hasina Thi", it remained true to the central theme here. There are indeed sequences in the second half which seems kinda stretched, but I felt they never really tested the audience's patience but on the contrary the treatment of the subject made us more engaged. Shyju Khalid's visuals were hard hitting while the BGM by Bijibal & Rex Vijayan was in sync with the mood.
The title more or less conveys the message that the film is going to be female centric & Rima Kallingal must consider herself lucky to have landed with such a meaty role. She has done herself no harm as she unleashed a superlative performance which is undoubtedly the best in her nascent career. Fahad Fazil seems to have sealed himself to be the caricature of the modern day youth & comes up with an impressive act which is evolving by the day. Similarly, the veteran cast of Prathap Pothen, Sathar & T.G Ravi have done complete justice to their roles, not to forget the sincere efforts of the rest.
Verdict: Impressive promos, Vishu season & Aashiq Abu's previous hit will ensure a fantastic opening for the film. The biggest plus for the film is undoubtedly the courage of Aashiq to deviate away from the successful formula of "Salt N' Pepper", which very few would have done. Though it seems packaged as an urbane film, the theme is very much relevant for the scores of nurses from all walks of life which should ensure a decent run in single screens as well. In short, do watch it & savour yet another gem of this year!!!