Sanu John Varghese, who has helmed the cinematography of several finely crafted mainstream movies, has made his debut film as a director based on extremely humane elements. Aarkkariyam, starring Biju Menon, Sharafudheen, and Parvathy Thiruvothu, takes its own sweet time to establish its agenda. In fact, it is pretty much in the climax we fully get the driving theme of this movie. But once you crack it and backtrack those characters’ journey, it becomes an emotionally relatable experience. Touching upon complex topics like deciding between right and wrong and the need for closure, Aarkkariyam stays with you simply because of the story’s empathetic approach towards those characters.
Shirley and her husband Roy are living in Mumbai. The story is set in the initial days of the COVID spread. Roy is facing some major financial trouble. In the midst of all this, they decided to come to Kerala to visit Shirley’s father, Ittiavara(Chachan). A couple of days after arriving, Shirley tells her father about the financial issue, and he proposes the suggestion of selling the whole property. But Chachan had a condition, and he shared that only with his son-in-law Roy. What is that condition and how does that gives a different perspective to characters is what we see in Aarkkariyam.
The tempo of the narration here is extremely slow. But at the same time, it is very much real. It is not the kind of forced realism that we see in pseudo art house films. You can extract some detail about the characters from the way sequences are captured. We are not given details in an orated way. The understanding between Roy and Shirley is very sensible, and that’s because of a past relationship from which they both wanted to move on. When Ittiavara reveals something significant to Roy, we are sort of judging the veteran immediately. But after that, the writing tries to look at it from the perspective of Roy, who is pretty much a representative of the viewers. And through Roy, the film attempts to build a bridge between Shirley, Chachan, and the audience.
If you look at the way Aarkkariyam has been scripted, you would know that for a large majority of its runtime, Shirley is one character who isn’t actively contributing to the plot. But what I liked about the writing of this movie is how they made her so important to the story through just one sequence that happens at the very end of the film. She talks about closure and how she hated the suffocating sympathy in other people’s eyes for her. The writing wants us to feel the confusion Roy faces. The black and white morality in his decision-making fades slowly and enters that ambiguous phase.
As I already said, Sanu John Varghese prefers a slow narrative as he wishes to establish his characters through minute details. When it comes to the visuals, the color scheme more or less remains the same. The relaxed moments are a bit rare in the film, and hence we don’t really see many wide shots. The cuts are also on the gentle side and stay with characters for a longer duration. The minimalistic background score adds a subtle life to the narrative.
As the 73-year-old retired teacher, Biju Menon has done a really impressive job in being that character. The rough edges of Ittiavara and his concerns looked very real, and the voice modulation and body language were totally believable. Sharafudheen as Roy offers some lighter moments to the audience without being gimmicky at all at any point. The minimal variation he brought in his expressions made Roy’s anguish and learning genuine on screen. Parvathy also performed her character in a very minimal way. I wouldn’t say it was a challenging role for someone of her caliber, but she definitely added depth to Shirley.
Aarkkariyam has no deliberate intention to score through a particular scene or a particular statement. It sort of asks you to be less judgmental about people in general as each individual’s conflicts will be alien to us. If interpreting silences and thinking about characters gives you a high, you shouldn’t miss this movie.
If interpreting silences and thinking about characters gives you a high, you shouldn't miss this movie.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended