Once again, Tamil cinema comes up with a superbly novel theme. Balaji Mohan’s Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (Speak With Your Mouth Shut) plots the outbreak of a deadly virus in the hill town of Panimalai (shot in Kerala’s divinely misty Munnar). The bug affects the vocal cord, and the victim loses his ability to speak. Call it the dumb virus, but it sure does lead to hilarity of sorts.
Direction: Balaji Mohan
Cast: Dulquer Salman, Nazriya Nazim, Madhoo
Running Time: 149 minutes
Imagine the plight of a door-to-door salesman, Aravind (played by Mammootty’s son Dulquer Salman, making his Tamil debut), whose most important sales pitch has to be verbalised, ordered by a government decree not to speak. For, the health authorities find out after the disease begins to spread on the mountains that the bug is passed from one to another through speech! Not sneeze or cough. So, they ban people from talking.
This may be a case of imagination running riot, but writer Mohan (who also penned the story) uses the theme to explore the effects – some sombre, some funny – on a community that goes silent. Some forced into this state by the administration’s order, some by the infection itself.
It is into this narrative that Mohan injects – totally unnecessary though – a verbal war between a movie star and a group of alcoholics, peeved at being ridiculed by him for their drunken stupor.
Also, somewhat amateurish is the love story between a young doctor, Anjana (Nazriya Nazim), and Aravind. She has enough on her hands, lest of all the panic and mental agony of the town’s people. She is unable to come to terms with her young stepmother (essayed with great panache by Madhoo of the Roja fame), who is kind and genteel though. And Anjana’s possessive boyfriend keeps her swinging between doubt and hope. She is never sure that her step-mom will ever be her mom, and she hopes against hope that her guy will reform. Sauntering into this triangle is Aravind who falls hopelessly in love with Anjana.
For a good part, the film runs without dialogues, though the loud, almost irritatingly intrusive, background score robs the work of, what could have been otherwise, beautiful silence. And, what is downright silly is a government minister camping in the town – a man who is caught between a smart personal assistant and a haughty chief minister. What a caricature.
Salman as the sales guy promoting an adhesive seems to hold out some promise, but Nazim and Madhoo sparkle. And with Mohan himself portraying a witty television news anchor, the movie has its bright moments, but not enough to get more stars. If only there was greater finesse in treatment and the excision of some scenes, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum could have been gripping.