I hadn’t known much about this film which was released on Prime a few weeks ago perhaps due to the lack of buzz and that’s a bit surprising and not surprising. Surprising because here’s another Malayalam film which is not the usual run of the mill type and attempts to explore a new theme. And when you see the film, you will realise that it is very difficult to tie this film to a particular genre. Not surprising because, the film is bit of a slow burn and probably that kept the buzz around the film modest.
In the first 30 odd minutes of the film, it is just slice of life proceedings with the only novelty being the Corona and quarantine period setting. A NRK (Non Resident Keralite) couple living in Mumbai drives down to visit their Naadu (Native place) in Kerala for a break before the lock down starts, to spend some time with the girl’s old dad who lives alone there. The interactions between the couple seem very normal though you can sense a palpable nervousness beneath that veneer. Credit to the actors Parvathy and Sharafudeen who play the couple so real. The Director captures the moments when NRKs visit their house in Kerala so meticulously and as we wonder about the plot point, somewhere before the interval we get to see that twist. In a very matter of fact manner.
Now this style of storytelling is exactly like what we saw in Drishyam 1 & 2. However, the similarity ends there. In Drishyam, the film catches pace after the plot twist moment and keeps us on the edge till the end. In Aarkkariyam, even after that crucial point, the film continues in its slow pace. In fact, further key issues are narrated or shown very normally sans any drama. Usually we curse films that have too much drama. Here, it’s the opposite. There is hardly any drama and you yearn for it. That too when this film is also about a body that is buried clandestinely just like in Drishyam. As the cliché goes, “No crime can be fool proof”. But, Aarkkariyam? (Who knows?) Sorry for that mild spoiler.
For Sanu John Varghese, this is his first outing as a Director and demonstrates adequately that he understands the craft. There is no major flourish or fantasy in the frames and what we see in the screen is what we usually see in normal life. The director gets the characterisation of all main roles absolutely on the dot. So in Mumbai, the male lead converses with his mallu friend predominantly in Hindi with Malayalam coming in between which is what normally happens for people who are brought up outside. The other aspect of the director which impressed me was his eye for detail. So, a car in which a visitor arrives, promptly displays the “Emergency services” sticker because we are talking of lockdown times. And in another real life mirroring moment, the wife asks the husband to keep a watch on a dish which is on the gas. The wife comes after bath only to find the husband forgetting the same! While all this works for the film, lack of plot points in the screen play is its main weakness in an otherwise compelling script.
In terms of cast, Biju Menon leads the pack with his controlled portrayal of the elderly dad with his get up, body language and dialogue delivery. Last we saw him as the spunky and egoistic cop in Ayyapanum Koshiyum and here he shows a completely different face of his. Parvathy Thiruvothu plays the wife and as usual she is just too good. I would say that she gets limited space in the second half but even then she just plays the role of a disturbed young wife beautifully. Watch her in one particular scene when she is on the phone with the Sister of her daughter’s school while being distracted at the same time at home.
As I mentioned, some may find the pace of the film too slow. If only the screenplay added a bit of drama elements in the second half, it would have been brilliant. The ending is very matter of fact and is a let-down. I still feel it is a good film and worth a watch if you don’t mind slow burn films.