Verdict: Asif Ali plays to his strengths in Mandharam.

The key to your happiness shouldn’t be in someone else’s hands. That is what you take away from Asif Ali’s latest offering, Mandharam. A romantic film by debut director Vijesh Vijay and scripted by M. Sajas, Mandharam has Varsha Bollamma, Jacob Gregory, Arjun Ashokan and Anarkali Marikar in the lead. It is produced by Monisha Rajeev and Tinu Thomas under the banner of Magic Mountain Cinemas. The music is by Mujeeb Majeed, who has also made his debut with this movie.

What’s Mandharam all about

After a heartbreak in school, Rajesh (Asif Ali) swears to remain single all his life, until he meets Charu (Varsha Bollamma). They are in a relationship and yet they are not. She is still miles away from commitment, while he is willing to go all the way. Mandharam is essentially Rajesh’s story—his search for love, his pain after losing it and the joy in finding it again.

What works

The movie traces the life of Rajesh as a child until he is 32. To the credit of the film’s crew, Asif Ali does seem to age with the movie. Two stages of his childhood are played by siblings Eric (of the Take-off fame) and Evan Anil. The colors and frames speak for themselves. While the scenes with Charu are bright and have a soft effect, the second half has darker and bolder hues. The flower mandaram is a recurring motif throughout the movie and has been used enough to justify the title. For a movie in which the protagonist is a musician, it is dotted with popular film songs we have heard over the years. The song Kanne Kanne stands out from the movie’s playlist. The comic relief is provided by Rajesh’s gang of friends essayed by Jacob Gregory, Arjun Ashokan, and others. While romance does take prime position, the question of whether someone can love you more than your parents is repeatedly asked. It is difficult to miss the similarities to some of the movies like Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar and Disney’s Tangled. A special shout out to the team for the portrayal of Devika (Anarkali Marikar), one of the central characters of the movie. She plays a textbook badass—a confident biker girl, who does not mind a glass of booze. Indrans and Ganesh Kumar appear in minor roles.

What could have been better

While the movie does try to sketch Rajesh’s quest for finding true love over the years, the effort seems a bit forced in parts. A few clever snips would have made a difference.

Why you should watch this movie

Mandharam is what you would call a feel-good movie. It is one of those movies where you can sit back, relax, and sink into the sweet romance.