19(1)(a), the new Malayalam film from debutant Indhu VS is a genuine attempt to tell society about the relevance of being political. Even though it is questioning the autocratic right-wing rule, there is an effort to showcase how a political mind differs from others. The only major issue with the movie is the intensity of the impact on the central character it wants to show. While the aura of Vijay Sethupathi does help the film in setting up that character, you somewhere hope to get a better idea of this man, which sadly, the movie couldn’t manage.
SPOILER ALERT! A girl who runs a photostat shop is our central protagonist. She is struggling to continue this business. One day, a Tamil man comes to her shop and shares a manuscript asking her to take a copy. He asked her to keep the original and copy with her, and he will return later that day and collect it. But the guy never returns, and she later learns that he was an activist who got shot dead. Her efforts to know this man is what we see in 19(1)(a).
19(1)(a) of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression to the citizens. The movie 19(1)(a) talks about how that right has been getting violated in the recent past. When you look at it as a relevant film, it is indeed an appreciable effort. Rather than leaning too much towards the left, Indhu’s vision is to talk about the apolitical mindset of the majority. Once you are aware of the political reality around you, your perspective won’t be the same, and to show that, Indhu gradually builds a relatable ecosystem around her central protagonist.
There is a point where Nithya Menen’s character starts to admire the writer-activist Gauri Shankar. The admiration made her restless, and it had the potential to make her move away from the mundane life she was living. Gauri Shankar and his writings have a major role in her transformation. The glitch here is that we are not really feeling for that character of Gauri Shankar the way our leading lady is getting it. There is a scene where her lazy father decides to quit that path when he accidentally comes across Gauri’s book. I am a fan of minimalistic detailing of characters, but this one felt a bit insufficient as it had a key role in shaping the film. Manesh Madhavan’s cinematography with calmer colors and mostly static frames work for the movie. Govind Vasantha’s background score is great in some crucial portions, but there are areas where I felt they could have used the silence effectively.
As the leading character, Nithya Menen fits the mold. She is a very sensitive and empathetic character who evolves over the course of this incident. Nithya portrays the progression of the character neatly. Vijay Sethupathi as Gauri Shankar is imparting his inherent charm on screen. Even though it is not a highly demanding character, it is a great example of how casting can do half the job for you. Indrajith Sukumaran as Anand was fine. Athulya as Fathima was good, and Srikanth Murali was really impressive as the father. Bhagath, Sreelakshmi, Indrans, Deepak Parambol, and a few more names are there with minimal screen time.
Indhu has worked with filmmaker Salim Ahmed, and one can see a similar filmmaking sensibility in the treatment of scenes. I don’t know whether the pandemic constraints restricted the team from exploring Gauri Shankar. But why he was such an influential figure demanded a bit more explanation. A wonderfully depicted visual representation of Karupp is there at the tale end of 19(1)(a), but I wished to see a little more of Gauri Shankar so that I could admire him the same way other characters in the movie do.
A wonderfully depicted visual representation of Karupp is there at the tale end of 19(1)(a), but I wished to see a little more of Gauri Shankar so that I could admire him the same way others do.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended