One movie that came to my mind while I was watching debutant Jeeva KJ’s Richter Scale 7.6 was Sudevan’s Crime No. 89. Both these movies offered me a similar experience as a viewer. Both films had no plan to spoon-feed the viewer. And it was at the very end of these movies we realize the depth of the topic they had presented. Richter Scale 7.6, in its first view, is a very simplistic Karma story, but it is a very layered drama in which environment is a crucial character if you look at it closely.
Sukumaran and his father Ramankutti are our main protagonists. As Ramankutti is mentally unstable, Sukumaran always locks him up with a chain before going to work. Suku wants to leave that place for a better life, but his father’s adamant stand to live in the soil where he was born was restricting him. Ramankutti’s dependency on Sukumaran and how a certain event shifted that power dynamic is what we see in Richter Scale 7.6.
Spoiler Alert! It isn’t easy to review this movie without revealing what happens in the end. So if whatever you have read so far has created a curiosity in you to watch the film, please go and watch it (Please have some patience to sit through it). If you do an immediate analysis of the movie, it feels more like an extended short film where the son realizes the fact that Karma is a boomerang. But Richter Scale 7.6 has more layers to its credit. It’s a movie that talks about how our way of treating nature has changed over generations. Ramankutti is someone who believes in coexisting. He welcomes a snake to his house, he catches a fish using traditional methods to meet his hunger, and he is still living in the nostalgia of those good old days where nature provided them everything. His son Sukumaran on the other hand, is an exploiter. He works in a quarry and prefers to have restaurant-made food.
The canvas of the movie is minimal. The camera is rarely moving out of the home of these two characters. But within that claustrophobic premise, Jeeva talks about things that have to do with perspectives and politics. Sukumaran has always seen his father as this mad man, and it is when he finds himself bedridden, he realizes the truth that what he (and his generation) considers madness is a form of empathy. At the end of the movie, we see Ramankutti walking away from home to the workplace. But the brilliance of that shot and all the backstories we have heard so far triggers something inside our heads, and the movie becomes exciting on a backtracking level. This backtracking high after a tedious presentation of every minute of someone’s life was something that I found similar in Crime No. 89 as well.
Interestingly, Asok Kumar, who plays the role of Ramankutti in the movie, played the main character in Crime No 89 as well (Perhaps I should check his entire filmography). He has portrayed the inner turmoil and the love in him in a deeply affecting way. Murukan Martin’s Sukumaran is this stubborn character throughout the film and doesn’t challenge him much on a performance level. The rest of the cast seems to have zero experience in front of the camera, and you can’t really have many complaints about a movie like this which was made on a limited budget.
The duration of Richter Scale 7.6 is only 73 minutes, and Jeeva uses every moment of that short duration to give us subtle details about both the characters in the movie. And when you finally see that 180-degree shift in power dynamics, all those excerpts of memories and frustrations help you solve the maze and understand the broad picture.
Richter Scale 7.6 is available on Roots OTT platform.
Richter Scale 7.6, in its first view, is a very simplistic Karma story, but it is a very layered drama in which environment is a crucial character if you look at it closely.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended