Sanal Kumar Sasidharan gives you a disturbing film which falters towards the end.

Flix Review Saturday, December 07, 2019 - 12:57
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Perhaps because the scary trailer came much earlier or else it is the general remoteness of the whole place that Chola begins with, you expect something horrible to happen from the moment the title goes up the screen. But the sad part is, what you witness goes beyond the worst that you already expected -- that comes later. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan gives us a really disturbing film, told through some great performances – Joju George especially, and Nimisha Sajayan too – and an eerie presentation. 

It is a black screen at the beginning except for a flickering flame. KPAC Lalitha’s voice tells a little child an old grandma’s tale about a prince who goes in search of a virgin to get a treasure from her. You don’t see them but you know this is an inkling of what the movie is going to be. When the black goes away and light falls on the screen, there comes our virgin in a blue skirt and cream top – a school uniform – hugging a schoolbag. A dog is at her side as Nimisha Vijayan walks through the woods to reach a jeep. A young man (Akhil Viswanath) and a stout older man (Joju George) are waiting for her. From the moment she sets eyes on the gruff ‘Ashan’ (Joju), Janaki (Nimisha) is uneasy. It’s like she has a premonition. And because of her anxiety, you get the same weird intuition. The dog does too as it barks at the speeding jeep that takes the girl away.

It is amazing how a simple jeep ride across a remote but picturesque place, wet with rain (good shots, Ajith Aacharya) can make you so tense, with very little help from background music. All it takes is Joju’s indifferent expressions and Nimisha’s really scared, schoolgirlish face. The only relaxed one in the picture is Akhil, playing her boyfriend, all talkative and playful and screaming in glee at the beautiful paths they pass.

It is meant to be a day away together for the two young lovers. She is to be dropped back by evening. But Janaki is typically tense and worried every passing minute. She wants to go back home in a bus. It takes a lot of cajoling by the boyfriend to finally make her laugh and enjoy their little time together. The city is a pleasant adventure for the young girl, holding tight to the edges of the escalator or gaping at the mall dancers.

These joyful moments might ease you up a little but you know the chain-smoker Ashan will be back any minute with his mud-licked jeep and inscrutable face. The boyfriend’s no match to him, he is skinny and boyish-silly and immature. And Janaki is a kid.

When the horrible moment you have been dreading finally presents itself, it still disturbs you, big time. Even without the pictures (and thankfully no symbolism). While the buildup to this scene has been written so very effectively, what follows is disappointing, to say the least. The writing falters, the actions and reactions seem like a staged event gone wrong.  A lot of loud wailing, a lot of weird behaviours, and spoiler alert – an unexplained bit of what seems like Stockholm Syndrome. Nimisha, with all her calibre, ends up playing the troubled child, throwing tantrums, and wailing nonstop. The dialogues become repetitive and Joju, whose behaviour till then as a ruthless uncaring man becomes a contrast to the crazy wild one we see later on. The script loses its groundedness and appears to quickly wrap things up to end the narrative begun by the grandma at the beginning of the movie.

It can all be explained away as the aftermath of that something horrible. But all three people don’t go crazy because of one person’s misery. Sanal’s movie, which keeps your interest even through the slow-paced storytelling that details the place and the movements closely, ultimately lets you down with what seems like forced cacophony.

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.