There is an extremely minimal bit in the climax of the movie Vaanku by Kavya Prakash, where we hear the Vaanku (Adhan) in a female voice. It felt so good that my disappointment towards the whole film increased seeing it. Vaanku is a politically pertinent theme that got a messed up treatment mainly due to its loud writing. The stereotypical caricatures and the movie’s boring predictability make it an incoherent attempt to indulge in the conversation about gender equality.
Razia, a free-spirited young Muslim girl, is our central protagonist. Her mother is a fun-loving person, while her father is an overly religious person. Razia is in the final year of her college education. When her teacher suggested this idea of fulfilling each individual’s wishes before leaving the college, Razia told her friends about her wish. She wanted to recite the Vaanku. What she had to face from her own community for saying this wish is what we see in the movie.
The idea is pretty simple, and considering the political climate, it adds to the ongoing discussion that openly talks about the inherent patriarchy in religion and society. Where this movie fumbled was in the making. The Great Indian Kitchen also addressed a similar topic of women getting suppressed by society’s patriarchal norms. But the minimalism and realism one could feel in that movie in setting up the premise were not there in the case of Vaanku. The writing by Shabna Mohammed is giving every bit of the film an exaggerated dramatic tone. A lot of the “cool” camaraderie dialogues at the beginning of the movie felt so unreal. The political reiteration is so much that I felt like screaming, “move on, please.”
As a filmmaker, Kavya Prakash’s way of conceiving drama feels very conventional. Barring the climax, I couldn’t see any instance in the movie where one can sense craft coming into play. The film is driven by dialogues that are more like statements that you expect to hear if you have seen the movie,s trailer. It was a bit ironic to see a rape joke in a movie that was creatively controlled by women. Arjun Ravi occasionally uses this sharp focus shift within a frame to show the urgency at the moment. The editing, on the other hand, was making the movie too tedious. Sometimes I feel the editor should respect the intelligence of the audience to predict the possible outcome. There is a WhatsApp voice note sequence in the movie that somehow gives you a feeling that Suresh URS doesn’t know how voice notes work. The background score of the film is pretty typical.
Anaswara Rajan has managed to make the character of Razia believable despite the dialogues given to her being utterly clumsy. Nandhana Varma as her close friend, was disappointing. Actor Vineeth was actually pretty good at handling the slang, but there were some moments in the movie where his dialogue delivery stood out. The actress who played the role of Razia’s mother was impressive. Thesni Khan in that eccentric comedy role was a total annoyance.
As I already said, because this movie has so much relevance in terms of the theme, you will wish it had a better making when you see that minimal yet effective climax. The charmless dialogues and unsurprising series of events make it a movie you sit through looking at the watch. Vaanku fails miserably to cause any impact and relies heavily on its anti-patriarchal theme, which the film can’t convey with subtlety.
Because this movie has so much relevance in terms of the theme, you will wish it had a better making when you see that minimal yet effective climax.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended