So it is time to set the ball rolling! The first post in the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge and when I thought the theme of cinema would help me; little did I realize that with the umpteen choices that I have I am going to face more problems in picking a movie. Since 7:30 AM the time I caught my train this morning – I have been deliberating over Aparan, Advaitham, Adhipan, Ananda Bhairavi and Ananthabhadram. Each a treasured movie; finally Papettan; director Padmarajan wins and the first post is my thoughts on – ‘Aparan’ – ‘The Stranger’.
Aparan is a dark, moody tale of a man whose life turns upside down when he realises he has a look-alike who is a criminal of the first order! Aparan is the Tale of Vishwanathan – Vishwan played by Jayaram in his stellar debut – many people believe that Jayaram has not been able to outdo this performance. I tend to agree; he has become a comic parody of sorts!
Vishwam lives in a small village in Kerala with his loving parents and sister. He decides to go to Kochi/Ernakulam the financial epicentre of the state to secure a job. On reaching the city he is rounded up by the public and arrested; thankfully his classmate Mukesh who plays a police-officer realises that Vishwan is his friend and not the criminal. As Vishwan and his friend talk of old times; Mukesh reminds Vishwan that his look-alike has no name and is a dangerous criminal. This also leads to his sister’s wedding being called off!
Vishwan then finds a job and a mildly romantic track with Shobhana starts; I believe Jayaram and Shobhana are the best on-screen couple in Malayalam cinema!
He loses this job as well when his MD’s friend says that Vishwam had promised to provide a girl by taking money but had not honoured his promise. In the ensuing altercation that ensues Vishwan realises that this menace will never end and decides to track down his look-alike criminal. Then starts the transformation we get a name for the criminal – ironically named Utthaman. Vishwan starts visiting shady places, wears dark clothes and keeps looking for a way to find the true criminal. In a final burst of Providence – Vishwan accepts payment for a murder plan hatched by Utthaman.
This is when the story gathers steam and we do not realise who is hunting whom. Vishwan decides to hand over the money to his father played by Madhu to ensure that his sister’s wedding takes place. Enroute to his house, he is attacked by Utthaman and his gang. Done beautifully in the darkness the gang-members mistakenly kill Uthaman, while Vishwan manages to escape with the money. But next to Uthaman’s body – Vishwan’s bag with his clothes and certificates are found by the police.
In an emotional sequence – Vishwan sees his father perform the last rites of Utthaman, imagining the criminal to be his own son.
That night Vishwan confronts his father and tells the truth. He hands over the money to his father to help with his sister’s wedding and bids goodbye.
Then plays the haunting final scene as the embers and flames of the burning corpse recede slowly – a magical moment of light, flame and smoke and a sinister smile plays on the place of Vishwan’s face. Did Utthaman die? Did Vishwan die? If Utthaman died why does Viswan choose to take Utthaman’s identity!
The movie ends with numerous questions that emerge in the mind of the viewer and a discomforting truth takes shape – could Utthaman be still alive and planning a life of crime afresh in a new city???
This is considered as one of Padmarajan’s lesser works – but is still a brilliant portrayal of the workings of the human mind! Without a song and a simple and effective score and a fascinating performance by Jayaram – do not miss this gem! It is a wonderful piece to get introduced to Padmarajan’s works!