Movie Title – Varathan
Language – Malayalam
Year of Release – 2018
Principal Star Cast – Fahadh Faasil, Aishwarya Lekshmy, Dileesh Pothan, Sharaf U Dheen.
Genre – Thriller
Director – Amal Neerad
Script – Sarfu and Suhas
Music – Sushin Shyam
Cinematography – Littil Swayamp
Revenge tales have been a staple of Malayalam cinema. From gems like Thazhvaram and Season, somewhere Malayalam cinema began to ape Tamizh and Telugu cinema and at a point the differences were negligible. Stars and fans associations made merry as directors and script-writers added bombastic dialogues, with ample moustache twirling, loud music scores, and unbelievable stunts to draw loud applause from the masses.
Fahadh has been the poster boy of a new wave of Malayalam cinema that commenced with ‘Chappa Kurishu’ that was pretty much a copy of a Korean hit. Movie after movie he has carefully chosen scripts that play to his strengths. With each movie Fahadh has proven himself as a true chameleon who can play any role with ease. Aishwarya Lekshmi is just a few movies old, but boy oh boy, she seems to fill the screen with her magnetic presence and I really hope she gets roles of value.
Amal Neerad has crafted movies that are heavy on style, cinematography, synchronized stunts, and engrossing musical scores. In ‘Varathan’ translates to ‘The Outsider’ – he sets up an engrossing closed house thriller akin to Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Straw Dogs’, which was violent, brutal, and left audiences disturbed when it came out in the 70s.
Aby and Priya are a young couple in Dubai and the recession leads to Aby and Priya returning to India after Priya’s pregnancy is terminated as the gynaec says there’s no heartbeat in the foetus. Aby decides to focus on setting up a design startup in India while Priya utilizes the work from home option.
They move to an idylic cottage at the 18th mile stop – a hilly terrain in Kerala. It’s essentially an old-village that’s pre-dominantly Christian with its church and a close-knit community of rich plantation owners and commoners.
The ‘peeping tom’ nature of the frustrated, sexed-up Indian male is brought out in the characters that torment Priya, essentially a group of folks who were her classmates at school. There’s a creepy chap who runs away with Priya’s inner-wear and there’s a truly disturbing moment wherein he caresses the brassiere and pantyhose that for some pathetic reason generated whistles in the jam-packed theatre where I saw the movie. Goes to show where we are headed as a larger collective 😦
There’s another sequence where another man and woman are heckled and booed away by the villagers as they were not husband and wife. It sets up the tone for the movie along with a cockroach that Priya stomps away to death earlier in the movie.
A sub-plot of a budding friendship between a young boy from a poor family and the local contractor’s daughter has a significant impact in the third act of the movie. Before that the trio of Johnny, Jithin, and Josey continue to torture Priya. They peep at her in the bathroom, they look at her in her bedroom when she is asleep, they set up a mobile phone to shoot videos of her in the bathroom.
A flash point arises when Aby heads to Kottayam for a day and Priay decides to work from the library at the convent. The evil trio run her over by striking her Kinetic Honda. She tumbles over and is hurt and dazed. The three take her in the jeep and leave her in the hospital. We later learn the three have molested her in the moving jeep when she speaks in anguish with Aby later. She says she no longer feels safe and this infuriates Aby, who is possessed by castrated rage as he keeps saying – “we will report this to the police”.
The young boy and his mother seek shelter at Aby and Priya’s abode as they are chased by the contractor’s family. Then starts the final fireworks as a group of about seven to eight men seek to flush out the occupants of the house. How Aby fights the villains is to be seen to be believed and is truly intelligent film-making, though one wonders why he does not take out the barreled rifle and uses it.
The only blemish that one may cite is Priya’s pain and torture at the hands of the villains seems to have lost its focus and Aby seems to be too convincingly transition into a commando cum special-ops warrior in one extended sequence of explosions, knife stabs, blows to all parts of the body delivered with saucepans and shootouts.
A key advantage for the movie is its brief running time and intelligent structuring of the incidents that culminate in the violent showdown akin to a shootout in the Westerns of an era gone by. Two songs that play in the movie are good to hear and view – but honestly once you are out of the hall they do not actually stick in the mind.
The true revelation for the audience is undoubtedly Sharaf. This is the chap who plays the wealthy flirt in ‘Premam’. His turn as the villain is sue to fetch him some ‘Negative Actor/Villain Awards’.
A full paisa-vasool entertainer that’s been made intelligently. Go for it, you won’t be disappointed.