Recently, I have been very much fascinated by the Malayalam cinema. Almost all the movies I saw are simply stunning in writing, direction, and mainly, acting. I believe that keeping the stories insanely realistic is what makes these movies work, and this industry is doing it brilliantly! I read a lot about Lijo Jose Pellissery when his movie Jallikattu got selected as the Indian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. So when I found that he directed this movie and won the best director award at the International Film Festival, I knew I have to watch this.
The plot seemed pretty simple to me, a man died, and his mortal remains need to be buried. But as monotonous as it sounds, the film is insanely dark and takes an irreverent look at death, and brings out the complexities of human emotion in the process. It is terrific how Lijo made the whole movie pretty dark and still managed to add humor at times, which keeps you hooked to the screen the entire time.
Apart from the terrific direction, the movie shines throughout with an exemplary performance from the lead Chemban Vinod. Chemban played the role of Eeshi, the poor son who promises his father a grand funeral but utterly fails to do so, despite his efforts with the help from his friend Ayyapan (stunningly portrayed by Vinayakan). The main thing I observed from Lijo's film, is how he starts it with three-four characters and slowly expands the story to almost everyone living in the village. He applies the techniques of stage blocking as the movements of every character in his films are triggered by cues from other characters.
You have to appreciate the way P.F. Mathews has wrote the script for this movie. Keeping it realistic to the core, he managed to show that grief and reality can coexist. The pain of losing one’s husband does not stop the matriarch from cribbing about her daughter-in-law and the dowry that she failed to bring with her. Losing her father does not stop the daughter from demanding attention from her lover. Neither her distressed husband nor her dead father-in-law can seem to keep the daughter-in-law from being concerned about her physical appearance at the funeral. All these small but concrete details have made the movie top-notch. The climax is the best part of the entire movie, where Eeshi has a mental-breakdown leading him to dig a grave in front of his own house to bury his father. This scene stands out as it shows the state of the extremely helpless man whose walls have been broken by the circumstances beyond his control, which again is brilliantly portrayed by Chemban and wonderfully shot.
To conclude, Pellissery achieves a flawless merger of nearly all cinematic elements, making it an accomplished piece of art. He conveys the underlying truth of life in the same subtle fashion as everything else in the film – death is the biggest equaliser. A special mention to Prashant Pillai's music which is very simple yet very effective and the sound design is rich in detail, especially in the use of rain as yet another reminder of the constancy of nature irrespective of the games humans play.