Romancham review: Great debuts make this Soubin horror comedy a fun watch

Jithu Madhavan, writing and directing the film, lifts pieces from his life about an Ouija board experience and fits it neatly into the script.
Poster of Romancham
Poster of Romancham
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If for some reason, you have wondered about the lives of young people living in cramped houses away from home with standard bachelor negligence to matters of hygiene, Romancham gives a lifelike replica of seven such men, drawn from corners of Kerala to ‘one end of Bengaluru’. The writer and director of the film Jithu Madhavan had warned us that the film is about real-life events, much before its release. The chilling one-liner of the film says how a game of Ouija board affected the lives of seven friends in a house in 2007. How Jithu manages to bring it out with a curious mix of horror and humour is what makes it a great debut by him, helped by brilliant performances from a relatively new cast, and the music of Sushin Syam.

Romancham opens with the most familiar face among the seven: Soubin Shahir waking up with blurry eyes in a hospital. He tells his tale involving the six other men of the house and a few more (women are far and few between but forgivably so, given the circumstances) to a sympathetic nurse. All seven in the house have very distinct personalities and if you are the skeptical sort, you’d wonder how much of one man’s narration of the past you can trust. For even when he talks about each of them, he skips his own tale – what does he even do? To be fair, he doesn’t make himself sound like a saint. All the men are endearingly flawed.

Sajin Gopu plays the indisputable leader of the gang, his deep voice and “natural” fitness satirising the macho man when he breaks into a shrill scream as terror strikes. Siju Sunny looks like he fell from the 1970s with his sideburns and curly head of hair, but the marked disdain of an addict crumbles in the face of horror. Afzal PH and Abin Bino are remarkable as men of small stature with unique traits, their quickly fading expressions a treat to watch. Jagadeesh Kumar plays the “businessman” in the group, unmindful of his several failures remaining as boxes of commodes across the house. Anantharaman, a film critic, plays perhaps the most ‘decent’ of the lot, with a job, a girlfriend, and a load of faith.

Watch: Trailer of the film

The Ouija board comes into the midst of this gang, shaking their daily lives, which mostly involved slacking off, drinking, and playing games (Soubin’s character for some reason hates outdoor games). The horror part of it makes a slow entry, as the games yield nothing at first and become a joke between the men until the board seems to act on its own. The bored expressions, the quick exchange of words, and the sudden switch to wonder, shock, and fear are too good. It makes you laugh and it makes you scared. You can either laugh at your fears or hide your fear behind your laughs. You can also try to find logic among all that chaos to calm your inquistive mind down.

Soubin, after a few poor outings, is back in form. It is difficult to believe most of the other actors are new, or only a few films old. Even the others visiting the house, like the Ouija expert DJ, are fun to watch. If you are the nostalgic kind, you can also revel in the pleasures of an old world (2007 is 16 years away), when mobile phones were not “smart” enough to take all your time.

Jithu also makes the script tight. He doesn’t linger over the Ouija board for too long. He lets it have its run and then brings new characters to the screen. Arjun Ashokan appears as a surprise package, a man who can bring the creeps even as he smiles too often and acts too friendly. Chemban Vinod too has an endearingly witty cameo. Behind the screen, Sanu Thahir works the camera to bring you warm shots, like the one in which Soubin and Sajin walk on either side of a goofy Arjun in the night, as another of Sushin’s gripping songs flows into the screen.

With such a package, the horror and the comedy come off really well. But if you are not quite a fan of horror, chances are that you might have trouble with the viewing, despite the comedy accompanying it.  

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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