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Ariyippu / Declaration

Farhad Dalal
By-
Farhad Dalal
Rating
4 Star popcorn reviewss

Introduction

Onto the next release of the weekend and after a disastrous film in Govinda Naam Mera, I needed an antidote to nullify the tumultuous effects that the film had on my brain. And what better than a timely Malayalam film to cure me completely. With that I finished watching the new Malayalam film Ariyippu / Declaration which is streaming on Netflix. I have been getting multiple recommendations on my Youtube Channel Popcorn Reviewss, many of whom had suggested me to watch this film. But the one reason why I was really looking forward to watching Ariyippu(besides it being a Malayalam film) was because it is directed by Mahesh Narayanan who is a prolific director and has gems like Malik, Take Off and C U Soon to his name. In fact Ariyippu marks his second outing of the year after the stupendous Malayankunju. Having premiered earlier at the Locarno Film Festival, is Ariyippu worth your time, stay tuned.

Story & Screenplay

Set against the backdrop of Covid-19, Ariyippu follows the story of a couple who happen to work in a factory together although in different departments until a video surfaces that threatens not only their jobs but their marriage too. The story here is raw and dispassionate with layers and layers of context packed in a gritty little tale of mistrust. The screenplay standing at just about a 110 minutes does make for a compelling watch without any distraction.

The first thing that I really liked about the film was its setup. Kudos to Mahesh Narayanan for staging this drama in an unfamiliar territory for him(relative to his other films). The city of Delhi filled with a layer of smog acts as a perfect setting for this rather grim drama. From the characterization point of view you are reminded of the Iranian film The Salesman that does feature a couple whose backstory remains unclear right from the beginning. Likewise, here you are introduced to the couple who we are told want to move out of the country. Their first step is to find a temporary job in a land less familiar to them within the country.

The slow and mundane life of the couple is accurately captured through the grimness of the drama attributed to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

There are a couple of subplots to kickstart the proceedings which did seem like a series of unassuming activities conducted in the factory. Yet, the first conflict introduced in the drama is that of mistrust with a video that surfaces with a woman whose face is covered is apparently indulging in oral s*x with a man. This incident leads to a series of events that touch upon various social issues which are prevalent in our society.

The drama is a sharp commentary on the class divide that is present in our country. For instance, in a terrifying scene at the police station, the couple who have come to file a complaint are in turn harassed leading up to a bizarre medical test performed on the woman in a rather disgusting manner(the proceedings are cerebral here and we never really get a full picture of the transpiring events). This, while her husband awaits her presence in a helpless manner showcasing the sad state of justice in our society. Yet, the seeds of mistrust manage to unleash the prevalent male ego in the protagonist despite him not being a bad person. In a brutally shocking scene, he is seen manhandling and beating his wife before throwing her out of the house despite her denial of her presence in the video.

There are parallel events unfolding featuring a potent case of investigation being carried out. You only get a sense of what the final outcome of the investigation yet I was amazed at how seamlessly the subplots were tied to the main plot. There is a sense of ambiguity to the drama wherein the writers decide to reveal a few details and also hide them. So while you do not really get the conclusion on who is really responsible for the events in the factory(it is only implied towards one character), you do get a closure on the main plot and who that girl was in the video. In an unassuming scene, the revelation was very restrained with no buildup whatsoever.

But the fractured relationship of the couple are on full display here where the writers do well to also introduce a sense of morality to the drama. In a moving scene, we see the woman breaking free as her man stays his ground staring blankly. I did feel it would be an open end but the writers go a step further in showing how a person with ethics can lead a peaceful life as opposed to a compromised person. In a lovely metaphor featuring a ring on the woman which she couldn’t take off right throughout the film implying her own life and relationship which she was stuck in, the dying minutes show the woman visiting a shop to cut off her ring thereby signifying liberation of sorts. Do note that the protagonists are never seen together post that scene which depicts their breakup. All in all, the screenplay is a masterclass in film writing.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are sparingly used with a right mix of Hindi and Malayalam that does add a lot of authenticity to the drama. The BGM is filled with grimace and almost adds a layer of the uncertainty which lies ahead in the drama. The cinematography is absolutely brilliant and aptly captures the foggy streets of Delhi with a grey lighting that does add to the grimness of the drama. Also, it does well in making the viewing a quiet bystander. The editing is sharp here. Director Mahesh Narayanan is a genre filmmaker in many ways that reflects in his filmography. Ariyippu comes close to C U Soon in terms of technology affecting the relationship of the individuals. And it is done with such sensitivity and perfection that you seem like a fly on the wall right throughout the proceedings. The drama is gritty and thoroughly engaging and it also reflects of the fabulous skills that Mahesh does possess as a director.

Performances

The performances are absolutely brilliant by the ensemble cast. Dan Husain is absolutely fabulous to watch in an important little role. Kannan Arunanasalam and Kiran Peethambaram are absolutely natural to the core. Faizal Malik as Dinesh is phenomenal and so is Loveleen Misra who is brilliant as Savita. Athulya Ashadam as Sujaya has her moments to shine. Sidharth Bhardwaaj as the cop is terrifyingly brilliant and a far cry from his cop character in Delhi Crime. But the show belongs to Kunchacko Boban and Divya Prabha in more ways than one. The former is raw and unhinged and very transparent with his emotions. This was the most real portrayal of a broken person that I have seen in recent times. He is outstanding to the core. The latter has a sense of grimace on her face yet a streak of helplessness that reflects in her mannerisms up until the end. She is brilliant in a towering performance.

Conclusion

Ariyippu / Declaration is one of the most raw and devastating dramas of the year that comes with my highest recommendation. It is the Malayalam Film Industry that scores once again in an insane round of consistency. Available on Netflix.

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