Something about the appearance and the mood of industrial towns generate a sense of disorientation. In Mahesh Narayanan’s Ariyippu (Declaration), screened in the International Competition category at the 27th IFFK, the feeling is accentuated by the constantly running assembly line of a latex glove manufacturing factory in the National Capital Region. It is a bleak, colourless place, where people go along mechanically with the flow of the assembly line.
Hareesh (Kunchacko Boban) and Reshmi (Divya Prabha), a couple from Kerala, have taken up a job at the factory as a stepping stone towards a job abroad. A video of hers, shot by him to showcase her work experience at the factory for the visa application, sets off a series of events that turn their world upside down. An edited version of the video, spliced together with that of a woman involved in a sexual act inside the same factory, begins to circulate, creating tensions in their relationships too.
Although the incident leads to an investigation, especially on Hareesh’s own initiative, Ariyippu is not really concerned about tracing the origins of the edited video, but about how those involved react when caught in such a situation. Parallel to this runs another narrative, after Reshmi unwittingly exposes corrupt practices in the factory. Even the fake video circulated in her name seems to be connected to the unsavoury happenings in the factory for quite a long time.
Both these events become a test of moral fibre and the strength of character to stand by their ideals, even when the possibilities of a bright future, a compensation for remaining silent, is dangled before them. Not everyone can resist such temptations, caught in the kind of hopeless situation as they are. The film is also concerned with the nature of trust, and how the lack of it can play havoc in the lives of two individuals, especially when the man’s thought process is dictated by patriarchal conditioning. Yet, despite the multiplicity of narratives and issues that the script deals with, the writing remains wanting in places, especially in making us truly feel the plight of the protagonists.
Mahesh Narayanan eschews much of the elements that are part of his mainstream films, especially the background music, in a work that seems to be crafted with the festival circuit in mind. Although this forced nature of the work is evident in places, especially in the nature and duration of shots, Ariyippu does have a natural flow to its proceedings. Yet, certain mainstream afflictions remain, especially the writing of a scene involving Reshmi’s friend in the factory, to mislead us into thinking that she might be the one who is seen in the video. Hardly anyone would fall for it though.
Kunchacko Boban continues his dream run of essaying characters which are vastly different from the ones he has been doing for years, while Divya Prabha gets a role where she has much scope to perform. Ariyippu seems forced in places, but gets right the treatment of the moral dilemma and failings of humans under the most trying of circumstances.