When a tightrope walker manages to stroll across comfortably, despite the rope being not so easy to negotiate, one cannot but stand up and applaud. Especially so, when it is a first-timer, which is the case with Chidambaram, who makes his filmmaking debut with Jan-E-Man , pulling off an admirable feat of balancing.
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Most often, filmmakers struggle to find the right balance when there are two or three conflicting emotional tones in the narrative. Here, the script is written in such a way that the tonal shifts from the humorous to the morbid takes place in almost every other scene, that would seem much easier to lose that balance. Yet, the makers, as well as the actors, not only manage to get it just right, they also take the audience along on a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows, which come relentlessly one after the other.
At the centre of it all is Joymon (Basil Joseph), working as a nurse in Canada. Away from friends and family, none of whom have patience to listen to him during his frequent phone calls, loneliness is gnawing at him. Nearing his breaking point, Joymon decides to take a trip back to Kerala to celebrate him 30th birthday. Forced to help him are his old friends, Faisal Khan (Ganapathi), who is organising the whole party, and Sampath (Arjun Ashokan), who reluctantly agrees for the party to be organised at his home.
- Director: Chidambaram
- Cast: Lal, Arjun Ashokan, Balu Varghese, Basil Joseph, Ganapathi, Sidharth Menon, Abiram Radhakrishnan, Ria Saira, Chembil Ashokan , Prashanth Murali, Gilu Joseph
But, the party that Joymon has planned is far beyond their imagination, Complicating matters further is a death in the neighbouring house. With Joymon in no mood to cancel his birthday party, or scale down the celebrations, the stage is set for a collision course.
While the script by Chidambaram, Ganapathi and Sapnesh Varachal progresses by alternating between the contrasting moods in both the houses, there is more to it than this structure. Quite a lot of characters, and side stories, are packed into the narrative seamlessly, without the audience never losing connect from the central thread. For instance, there is the event manager — hired by Joymon for his birthday — who ends up with more business after smoothly taking up the arrangements in the house where the death has happened. Then there is a goon’s bodyguard, with a heavy Palakkad accent, who sees danger for his master, where none exists, and a popular serial actor who creates quite a stir in both houses... all of it leading to much hilarity.
Though it almost appears as an aside, the topic of mental health is also at the core of the narrative. The script smoothly transitions into that discussion between two characters facing almost similar issues, coping with it in different ways, and zooms out of them just as smoothly. The sensitive portrayal of their issues does not stick out as an awareness class. The scene is one of the many highs that the film manages to hit, not to forget a superbly written fireworks scene, and a ‘Superman tribute’.
Jan-E-man , with its inventive script and earnest performances, hits all the right notes.