A certain easy-going, calm atmosphere pervades Aarkkariyam even in supposedly the more tense moments in the narrative. So much so that close to the interval, when a key character makes a rather shocking claim, even that is delivered in a cool, collected manner, as if he is speaking about one of the dinner dishes. This somehow gives a chilling quality to that scene, yet this light treatment also limits the film at other key points.
Cinematographer Sanu John Varughese’s directorial debut is firmly set in the post-pandemic world, with the after-effects of the virus being a part of the narrative. Shirley (Parvathy Thiruvothu) and her husband Roy (Sharaudheen), who are settled in Mumbai, are returning home to Kerala to be with her father Ittyavira (Biju Menon), ahead of the COVID-induced lockdown. Beset with financial crises, Roy is also looking to raise urgent funds to repay his friend, who helped him in need, while Shirley is devising various ways to bring back her daughter who is stuck in another state.
- Director: Sanu John Varughese
- Cast: Biju Menon, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Sharafudheen
One of the impressive things about Aarkkariyam is in how much of it holds back, revealing just enough information at every point, keeping the rest for later. For instance, the fact that it is the second marriage for both Roy and Shirley is not revealed initially, but it becomes a key element later, as one’s previous marriage becomes the central focus. This subtle approach to even the most serious of issues is kept consistently. The mood of the film is accentuated by the light acoustic guitar strains in the background all through, even in moments when it does not really fit.
But the easy-going atmosphere mentioned earlier and the patchy nature of the script, holds back the film from soaring even higher. This is especially since the interval reveal held such immense potential as something to be built up on, leading to a much more satisfying climax than what they manage to achieve.
It has still to be said that the film uses the usual elements of a family story to construct a world, which makes one comfortable, even as a viewer from the outside. This comfort lulls the unsuspecting viewer into trusting everyone on the screen, until the rug is pulled from under their feet, revealing the dark secrets lying beneath. In the latter half, the film focuses on justifying this dark event from the past with an ‘everything is for the better’ message, with an extra dose of religiosity and hope, letting go of the opportunity of building a taut thriller.
Biju Menon aces the role of a 73-year old, making us feel the weight of the age in his demeanor and voice, while Sharafudheen and Parvathy too make their mark. In his debut, Sanu John Varughese gets quite a few things right, but Aarkkariyam winds up to a rather tame finish despite having the material for more.
Aarkkariyam is currently playing in theatres