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19(1)(a)

Farhad Dalal
By-
Farhad Dalal
Rating
3 Star popcorn reviewss

Introduction

Thank God It Is Friday and all the new releases this weekend seem very interesting. So lets get started and review each one of them. First up, I decided to opt for the new Malayalam film 19(1)(a) streaming on Hotstar. Before the film was out, I was reading about the Article 19(1)(a) which dealt with the Freedom Of Speech which is just so relevant in today’s times. National issue being made over an actor posing without clothes in front of the camera is one such example doing the rounds. This single line would help you judge how volatile the situation is. And given the high standard of Malayalam films, I really was curious to witness as to how deep one would go with this subject. To top it, the stellar star cast comprised of Vijay Sethupathi and Nithya Menen and I was raring to go. With that I finished watching <span;>19(1)(a) last night. Is it worth your time, stay tuned.

Story & Screenplay

19(1)(a) follows the story of a woman living a mundane life of running a photocopy shop until a writer leaves his manuscript with her that changes her life. The story here is relevant and the subject is really powerful. The screenplay standing at just about 108 minutes means that this one makes for a really quick watch. What I was more interested in was that with a subject like this how deep would the screenplay take you.

The first thing that caught my attention was the sound design(not to be confused with the BGM). The entire sequence playing out with the sound of the bike only to be followed with gunshots really caught my attention thereby sinking me into the film immediately. The drama then looks to create a world and flesh out its characters post this incident. So you are introduced to the protagonist and you do get a sense of the life which she has been leading.

Soon all that changes when a mysterious person hands her the manuscript only to not return. The main story kicks in from this point. The drama does have its share of flaws but what it does is that it gets the politics of subject bang on. There are references(some told cleverly through the news channels) which do indicate and address the issue at hand. Where the film falters is in trying to explore and dig deeper into the issue.

The issue here is the surface level treatment to a subject which could have been further explored even through its characters. The drama does throw in truth bombs which will make your eyes widen but then it does level it up in the very next scene thereby diluting its overall impact. The second half seemed confused on what it wanted to eventually say. This reminded me of the Malayalam film Naradan which followed a similar trajectory. Thankfully, the proceedings are watchable and this is not a train wreck.

The entire sequence involving the friend of the protagonist and how she was forced to marry wherein she did not resent or even ask questions is nicely equated with the main issue. Asking questions is relevant and answering them is their prerogative. This sentiment is nicely captured. The wobbly second half does get back on track towards the end in a brilliant final act which summed up the issue nicely. The ending will be talked about and given that this is a Malayalam film, this hardly comes as a surprise. If only the second act was strong enough to bind the first and the third act that this film would have been brilliant. But still the screenplay us decently penned.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are well written and they do create a bit of a stir. The music is pretty good and the notes on the BGM are excellent and they blend well with the drama. The cinenatography is adequate. The editing could have been better as the sudden flashbacks come out of nowhere giving the feeling of the screenplay being slightly disjointed.  Director Indhu VS in her debut outing does a decent job. The subject which she had in hand was very powerful and she does show glimpses of her exceptional skills here although certain sequences could have been executed better. But she will definitely learn from this and come out stronger.

Performances

The performances are really good here even though most of the characters are underwritten. Deepak Parambol as Ismail, Indrans and Indrajith as Anand both have their moments to shine. Arya K Salim as Jenny is first rate. Athulya Ashadam as Fathima is really affable and does an excellent job. Vijay Sethupathi as Gauri is wonderfully restrained and he brings all his experience in play even when things around him are falling apart. Nithya Menen is outstanding and probably one of the anchors of this ship. She has a lovely character arc from just going through the motions to actually stepping up for the greater cause. Even her education bit was hinted at towards the end before the open end that followed. This was a terrific act.

Conclusion

19(1)(a) is a relevant drama with strong performances but the writing and execution could have been better. This one is still a decent one-time watch. Available on Hotstar.

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