‘Aarkkariyam’ review: Parvathy, Biju Menon, Sharf U Dheen are great in this slow drama

Even as you appreciate the making and the beautiful performances of the actors, you miss a certain oomph factor in the film.
Still from Aarkariyam
Still from Aarkariyam
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In the middle of a large compound in central Kerala, with trees and birds and soothing weather to comfort him, lives Itty Avera, an elderly man. He is expecting a visit from his daughter Sherly, her husband Roy and his grandchild Shelly. The coronavirus pandemic has just broken out in the country and interstate travel is not going to be easy.

This is how Aarkkariyam, the film with the interesting title that translates to ‘Who Knows’ begins. The setting of old Avera’s house somewhat sets the mood of the whole film. It moves with a soothing pace, without upsetting order, without making you jump in your seat. It does not make you cry or laugh hard, but perhaps appreciate life upon reflection.

From their place in Mumbai, Sherly (Parvathy) and Roy (Sharaf U Dheen) are coming to Kerala, making calls to the daughter who is in a convent in Kerala. Perhaps because of the movie title or perhaps you are used to twists in films, you keep expecting something to go wrong every few minutes. The calmness on the face of the characters especially makes you anxious. New director Sanu John Varughese appears to be in no hurry, however. Or perhaps it is intelligent filmmaking to keep you wondering what it’s all leading to.

The only tension in the beginning comes out of a business deal going wrong and Roy and his friend Vysakh (Saiju Kurup is wonderful here) being in the thick of it.

But the couple reaches Itty’s (Biju Menon) house and the earlier normalcy (monotony?) sets in again. The relationship between the father and the younger lot are also what it’s expected to be. All love and no big expressions of it. In the middle of it all, faith plays a prominent role, not exactly on your face, but nevertheless very much in the background. The family offers evening prayers, reads out the Bible and Itty often talks of ‘Him’ like a friend he knew.

And just like he talks about everything else, Itty once casually drops a ‘secret’ to Roy. He calmly falls into a nap and Roy is left tense and wondering what to do with it. That’s where the movie breaks for the interval. But if you expected the film to pick pace, turn into a thriller driven by suspense, you are wrong. Director Sanu John Varughese refuses to break the order that was so carefully set in the first half. Even as you appreciate the making, the beautiful performances of all three key actors, the cinematography et al, you might miss a certain oomph factor in the film. The factor to keep you engaged in the film, artistically or script-wise. The monotony makes you want to tell the scriptwriters at some point to get on with it.

There is music all throughout the film, but it doesn’t exactly set moods. It doesn’t, for instance, turn eerie when the “secret” is dropped. It goes on cheerfully, oblivious to the goings on in the film.

On reflection, you might appreciate visuals, movements and even the stillness of the frames. The shadow of Itty praying that Roy watches with emotion. The autistic lad in the neighbourhood. And the passing gestures of three wonderful actors that make you feel at home when they cook tea or sing songs or simply raise an eyebrow. Even the child acting as Shelly gives a wonderful performance -- joy and disappointments passing through her young face with so much ease.

There is some novelty here, and a story of love told without a lot of drama. If the script’s tightened a little and the music toned down, Aarkkariyam would have been more wonderful to sit through calmly. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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