It is still a Thursday and with just a day to go for the weekend, I decided to squeeze in another little Malayalam film which premiered on Amazon Prime last night. With that, I finished watching the new Malayalam film Vichithram, a film that I knew absolutely nothing about. Vichitram, which stands for weird or indifferent is exactly what drew me to the film. Honestly, after the massive high of the Malayalam film 2018, I still had the hunger to trip on another Malayalam film from an industry that is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of filmmaking and storytelling. That said, does Vichithram manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Vichithram follows the story of a dysfunctional family who shift to their ancestral home wherein they start observing strange occurences. What is new in this premise, you ask? It is the craft of telling a story which is so niche yet engrossing where no details are spoonfed to the viewer. The story here is wafer thin but it is the style of storytelling which is an absolute winner here. The screenplay standing at 130 odd minutes does present a unique take of a horror-comedy which is subtle and nuanced in both genres. We have been privy to a lot of horror comedies lately wherein either one of the genres do overpower the other. But rarely there is a film that comes by, which balances both genres while even managing to be textured in many ways.
There is a certain sense of calmness to the drama which is almost like an acquired taste. It is a slow burn and not everyone may enjoy the conversations. But for those who do connect, it unfolds almost upto a point where it starts getting indulgent for the viewers(in a very good way). The drama opens with a girl painting while a sight outside the window does attract her attention. There definitely seem to be sparks flying which slowly cuts to the sight of a paint brush swishing on a page laden with paint. This premise is all you get and I liked how there was no real context given where the writers did hold the cards close to their chest.
Soon you are introduced to the members of the dysfunctional family comprising of a mother and her five sons. None of the sons are worthy enough to earn money for the family, and you are left witnessing the mother who works at a bakery to support her family. By nature she is quiet, and doesn’t share her sorrows with anyone. A case in point being that she did wish for a daughter given how she could have bared her soul with her. Her elder brother though did have a daughter who was quite vocal which is a stark contrast to the character of the mother. The first hour is filled with comedy which further illustrates the character traits of the sons. The situations are hilarious(although some parts were lost in transition) and it perfectly sets things for the ‘soul’ of the film in the second hour.
The proceedings are engrossing and make for a wonderful watch. There are no real jumpscares as far as the horror element is concerned. Instead, the writers do play on the mood of the drama by amping up the atmospherics. The strange occurences are backed with an ambience of fear which did slightly remind me of the Malayalam film Bhootakalam. There is texture to the drama given through the journey of animals which are drawn parallel to a story featuring two lovers. The entire LGBTQ representation is soft and handles with utmost care.
Horror films are often privy to showcasing flashbacks in a single go. But I did enjoy how bits and pieces of the flashback did unfold almost like a jigsaw puzzle where the mystery in the drama, although predictable, remained intact. The events leading up to the final act are quite interesting given how the characters who are fear-driven are weary of the things unfolding at their house. Yet, the final act does well in tying all the loose ends together that also includes the grand reveal on how the things did occur to complete the flashback. A small hint of a potential sequel is also an interesting addition(perhaps of Paul’s ghost or Alexander’s ghost?). Overall, the screenplay is well written and follows a very unconventional route for a horror-comedy.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and witty although a few lines are lost in translation. The BGM is pretty interesting. I did like how teasing it was with the horror element without overpowering the scene in any way. The cinematography is excellent, creating an ambience of horror which nicely placed frames. The lighting is outstanding too. The editing is excellent with occasional jump cuts that allows the fear to grow in the minds of the viewer. Director Achu Vijayan does a good job in opting for a rather niche and less treaded path as far as the horror is concerned. This approach may not be catered to everyone but I would like to applaud the effort for this unconventional route. The direction is pretty good here and it had me invested throughout.
The performances are pretty good too. Shiyan and Shihan as the twins Steffan and Savio respectively have their moments to shine. Reshma Sheriff is wonderful despite a limited screen time and she does a commendable job. Vishnu Anand as Justin has a good screen presence in a job well done. Ketaki Narayan aa Sanghamithra is wonderful to watch and her nuanced approach to her character was wonderful to witness. Kani Kusruti as Martha is such a fine actor and the subtlety in her performance was outstanding. Less is more was the perfect approach to her character.
Veteran actor Lal as Alexander is very good. Jolly Chiranyath as Jasmine had a lot of emotions to internalize and she was amazing to witness. Balu Varghese as Joyner is outstanding with his comic timing and he does a swell job. Shine Tom Chacko is one of my favourite actors given the range that he has. And his sincerity shines even in a character that may not be very likable. Yet, the remorse that he brings to his character deftly towards the end was just brilliant to witness.
Vichithram is niche and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Yet, its unconventional approach to the horror-comedy genre makes for an engrossing watch. Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Recommended!