The court case at the centre of Saudi Vellakka is the kind of case, which in all probability, might get a passing mention in the newspapers the next day. Out of the media glare and public attention, the proceedings go on for years, even as the people involved begin to forget where it all began. More than the content of the case, or the arguments on either side, director Tharun Moorthy is concerned with what this passing of time does to the people involved. Through that, he shines a light on the pendency of cases in Indian courts and the ways in which these affect the people involved.
Abhilash Sasidharan (Lukman Avaran) gets a summons to appear in court as the victim in a case which happened around 14 years ago, when he was just a child. On the other side is Ayesha Rawther (Devi Varma), an old woman, who had committed an angry act in a momentary lapse of reason. She immediately felt remorseful, for her anger was also fuelled by the goings-on in her own personal life at that time. But the animosities between neighbours, which also becomes a background to the case, has prevented any chances of settlement.
Tharun Moorthy, who debuted with Operation Java, that created an engaging drama around the issues of cyber crime and joblessness, yet again depends upon an issue to drive his narrative. But just like in his debut, the issue does not stick out. Rather, the effort is to convey the emotions of the people who are facing these, and he does succeed to a large extent in this endeavour. He goes in for a stark twist in tone too, creating a mood piece, without any flashy elements or much humour.
The characters that Moorthy creates are central to what he intends to do with the film. Out of all of them, it is Ayesha who ends up becoming the soul of the film, transforming from a helpless woman who has no clue of what she has landed in, to learning to swim with the tide and standing as mute witness to the slow turning of the wheels of justice. It is almost as if she is wishing for the wheels to roll over her and be done with it. Pauly Wilson’s dubbing for debutant Devi Varma goes a long way in turning this into a remarkable performance. Sujith Shankar, as her emotionally fragile son Sathar, almost matches her.
Dead and bed-ridden witnesses become the embodiments of the ravages of time and the pointlessness of deep-seated animosities over trivial issues. We are also left with characters tempered by the years (and at times oozing too much goodness), but thankfully the script does not fall into the unnaturally feel-good territory.
Ultimately, Saudi Vellakka is an emotionally impactful film that makes an earnest call for a more responsive justice system.