Ever since the Me Too movement happened and women started calling out their abusers, there have been these discussions around the ones who spoke out, tarnishing their image and questioning their integrity. While on the periphery, all those questions felt sensible, if you listen to those questions carefully, you can sense that layer of judgment in them. The quality and craft of Anand Ekarshi’s Aattam is in how it has accessed those murky areas.
The story here revolves around a theater group named Arangu. They are a professional drama troupe with 12 male actors and one female actor mentored by one person. Hari, the latest addition to the group, is a popular film actor, and his quick promotion as the hero wasn’t a well-received thing, especially for Vinay, the actor who used to be the hero. What we see in the movie is the events that unfold when the only female member of the group, Anjali, accuses a group member of molestation. The collective reaction of the group is what we witness in Aattam.
The social critique idea is very guessable from the initial moment. What I liked most about the film is how it included almost all variants of the “but, she” arguments using all those men in the frame. It was quite fascinating to see the movie having a whodunit structure throughout its narrative and then swiftly and smoothly reaching a point where it ignores the who part by convincing the audience that the who here is of the least importance.
Vinay Forrt plays the character of Vinay (except Kalabhavan Shajon and Zarin Shihab, I think almost every other major character has the names of the actors), and he pulls off the double standards, selfishness, and the insecurities of that character very effectively. My personal favorite was the female lead Zarin Shihab, who was brilliant in portraying the weak phase and the gradual growth of Anjali. In those final moments, the despair of the character was really visible in that laughter. Kalabhavan Shajon was fine as the cine actor Hari. Nandan Unni as Nandan is perhaps the only actor who is familiar to the audience other than the brief appearance of Surjith. The rest of the cast, which includes theater actors Prashanth, Sudheer, Sanosh, Sijin, Jolly, and a few more names, were all pretty real with their performances.
If you look at the plot of Aattam, it had all the possibility to be a very preachy movie that sort of says its agenda in a very in-your-face kind of tone. But Anand Ekarshi chose the backdrop of a passionate theater group to place this story of sexual abuse. And he constructs a series of characters who look very different from one another in terms of taking a stand. In the initial areas, we see the movie from a thriller perspective, where the script makes us curious about the molester. And you will find yourself guessing who could that be. And the smartness of the writing is that the narrative is maneuvered in a way where every group member gets exposed in a not-so-evident manner. The creative decision to keep it open-ended gives the movie the scope to spark a discussion. The pacing of the shots, especially in conversation bits of the film, has a very significant role in creating the drama.
One can criticize Aattam as a male-bashing film. But in my perspective, it felt more like an attempt to show men how the inherent patriarchal traits make them set double standards when they had to make an ethical choice. Every man in Aattam hides something about their character that they fear will get them judged. By the end of the film, it is only the woman who shows the courage to stand in front of everyone without any sense of inhibitions in speaking her truth.
What I liked most about the film is how it included almost all variants of the "but, she" arguments using all those men in the frame.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended