The blissfully peaceful face of a sleeping Kuttiyamma (Pauly Wilson) is one of the first visuals that usher us into the rather dark world of Appan. Clearly, a long unfulfilled wish is playing out in her dream. As she reveals a minute later to her daughter-in-law, who awakens her from her nap, she was dreaming of her husband Itty (Alencier Ley Lopez)'s death. She says that in a matter-of-fact manner, as if they have all been wishing for his death. In fact, they all have been.
The viewer would understand why a while later when they get to have a better idea of Itty, perhaps the most uniquely detestable character in Malayalam cinema to date. There have of course been several characters in the past who have no redeeming qualities, but here is one who has hatred leaking out of every pore of his body, so much so that even his little grandson is not spared from it. Once known for his wild ways, Itty is now bedridden and requires the care of his family, yet that does not stop him from hurling abuses and the vilest of curses at all of them.
Director Maju and scriptwriter R Jayakumar do not give us a detailed account of his past but drop enough hints about a life filled with the blood and tears of many. Some of them whom he had rubbed the wrong way visit him too, either to issue threats or to derive pleasure from his sufferings. But the one who suffers the most happens to be Itty's son Njoonju (Sunny Wayne), who has to bear the cross of his father's sins, being shunned by the villagers and constantly suffering the insults hurled by his father.
The thought of killing his father does cross his mind, but unlike the title character in Joji, who plans to kill his overbearing father, Njoonju is not the kind who would scheme to kill someone. Even when everyone around tells him to get rid of him, or when some others offer their services for the purpose, his only thought is to protect his father. For, unlike his father, who has almost lived the life of an animal without any regrets for his actions, Njoonju is forever troubled by the guilt that he would have to bear all his life if he were to commit a murder.
Itty's character, and by extension parts of the movie, are somewhat unidimensional. But, what lends it some depth and colour are the women who suffer under the patriarch, his wife Kuttiyamma, daughter-in-law Rosy (Ananya) and the sex worker Sheela (Radhika Radhakrishnan), all of who helplessly try to keep him under control in their own different ways. At some points, it does seem that the scriptwriters are not sure of where to go with this beast of a character that they have created, as the narrative meanders along to a stretched climax. Yet, they do manage to spring a surprise once in a while, with the entry of new characters.
Appan is an engrossing study of a long-suffering family, who is never at peace, even when the toxic patriarch is bedridden.
Appan is currently streaming on SonyLIV