Abhishek K. Venkitaraman
From Michelangelo to Da Vinci, it is a truth universally acknowledge that an artist who is a genius at his/her art must be eccentric, and hence, it is no surprise that one of the protagonists in this movie is named Michel Agnelo. Perhaps there is a subtle reference there. Artist is the story of two fine arts students: Michel(Fahaad Faasil) and Gayathri(Ann Augustine) who fall in love and decide to live together after dropping out from college. As Michel puts it “To spend some quality time together”. Based on the book “Dreams in Prussian Blue” by Paritosh Uttam, the movie transports the setting from Mumbai to Kerala and works like a charm! Artist successfully establishes itself as a niche movie. Its not your conventional Malayalam cinema, which is rooted in the culture of Kerala, yet it is not your commercial mainstream cinema either.
Story and screenplay
Michel is the son of a rich businessman from Goa, Gayathri is the daughter of a conservative Tamil Brahmin family. Both meet in an Art college and Gayathri falls heads over heels in love with this narcissistic, self-centered yet brilliant and charming senior Michel. She loves him enough to go against the wishes of her family to drop out from college and start living with him. The story is told in flashbacks and the movie has a tight runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. We see the flashbacks from Gayathri’s perspective, her ambitions, her passion for Michel. By an unfortunate accident, Michel becomes blind, leaving Gayathri devastated. Barely out of her teens, she becomes the sole bread winner for both and tries to fulfill all the whimsies of her partner. The rest of the story unfolds amidst lovers’ quarrels, misunderstandings, ego clashes. We see Gayathri in tears and feel for her, and one can’t help but feel sorry for Michel. The screenplay is tight and never falters keeping you engaged. We see the transition from Gayathri and Michel living a posh life to a crammed apartment, its almost a metaphor for the cage in which these two characters are trapped. A cage of love perhaps? The movie mostly sticks to the source material except a slight change in the climax.
Contrary to its title, Artist is all about colors and at the same time its not. The apartment in which Michel lives is all white, and the crammed house in which he is forced to live later, is entirely done in greys. The only colors which stand out are the colors painted on the canvas, which is also mostly a uniform color palette. At the beginning of the movie, where some scenes are set in an Art College, the college looks believable with real students. The real talent of the cinematography lies in portraying the navigation of a blind man in a crammed space. Close-up shots, clever angles, all reflect the talent of the cinematographer. Shyamaprasad leads us to a world of canvases, palettes, brushes, easels and paper pastels.
There is no denying that Fahaad Faasil is a brilliant actor and here he once again proves himself. You hate his narcissistic character so much and sympathize with the brilliant Ann Augustine, who has given one of her finest performances. She is a real revelation, trapped with a toxic, self-centered man, and forced to run a house all on her own. She even does away with makeup which makes you root for her. Fahaad transitions between anger, ambition, and angst all with perfect ease. His expressive face and eyes say a lot about a man embittered by life’s circumstances, some due to his own choices and others merely due to his bad luck. Overall, the performances are what makes Artist such a watchable movie. Michel has artistic demands, expensive paints which Gayathri is unable to fulfill with her odd jobs and meagre pay. One could relate with Gayatri and Michel, like us, they make bad choices driven by impulsive decisions. Overall, both Fahaad and Ann display a complex range of emotions which translates well on screen, with a superb chemistry between them. The entire cast consists of just a few characters, and all deliver a performance which is honest at its core.
Is loving someone still okay is the person and the relationship has gone rotten and toxic? Is it the moral thing to support your partner in their disability even when they are selfish? Artists manages to make you think about these questions. Love, betrayal, trust and impulsive decisions are the main themes in this brilliant saga. We tend to almost question Gayathri’s state of mind! Why is she still with this man? Stockholm Syndrome? This is an unconventional storyline with conventional themes portrayed with a difference. The selfless care that Gayathri gives to Michel is something rare in this generation, needless to say, the juicy performances are the crux of this movie.
Overall, Artist would remind you of the tough breakup you had, or the reckless choices you made in life. Yet, you root for the characters and their desire to find happiness in this colorful palette of the world.
You can watch Artist on Amazon Prime. Give it a go !
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.