Cast: Kreshna, Rupa Manjari, Oviya, Karunakaran
Yaamirukka Bayamey draws on well-loved (and well-worn) tropes about the supernatural. Like one of those fascinating stories narrated on a dark, stormy night, huddled in bed – the ones that make you want to quickly look over your shoulder, draw the blanket up to your chin; and squint suspiciously (and furtively) at the dark mass of clothes flung over the coat-stand. There’s the old, dilapidated bungalow for one; a rusty swing that creaks forward in a sinister arc all by itself, the dark, wispy shadow that flits noiselessly between windows and even an eerie voice (we are mortally scared of the computer-generated kind ever since En Iniya Iyanthira’s Sibi on Doordarshan preyed on impressionable minds) that echoes through the house.
A mysterious old man, with a brutally-scarred face appears randomly; and the guests who walk into the bungalow – clad in rich silk and heavy jewellery, and armed with vacant, deadpan expressions seem too creepy to ignore. But we would have still passed these instances off as an attempt at spoof on horror in general, in spite of the terrible rotting and wrinkled mass of a face that comes at you without any warning. The background score plays into our hands, pounding on our eardrums slowly building up rhythm; occurring so often that by the fifth time it happens, we are quite confident that there’s nothing ominous lurking around the corner.
This, we have seen before. There’s someone fooling around, as usual; this is a horromedy after all, and the director isn’t aiming to scare. That isn’t his intent, we decide, comfortably lulled into a sense of security, quite assured by now about this impending-horror-that-suddenly-turns-comical routine. We prepare to laugh. And, we do laugh…and then it happens, and now we recoil in horror.
This moment, we realise, is totally the director’s baby; a pretty clever ruse. We could almost see him smirking. He intends to scare after all.
Yaamirukka Bayamey opens atypically for a self-proclaimed horromedy. Of course, there are sufficient hints through the opening credits and the background score – the moment where the old bungalow stands illuminated in all its sinister glory by a single streak of lightning is stellar – but the first shot is of a woman walking around a tulsi plant. And the next is of a bunch of goons beating someone up. Kiran (Kreshna) a con-artiste, is receiving the blows. He runs afoul of a local rowdy; is heavily in debt, and lives with girlfriend Smita (Rupa Manjari). A mysterious envelope then arrives, informing him of an inheritance (some uninspiring comical routines here) that he has to take charge of; and he packs his bags and leaves for the hilltown, girlfriend in tow.
There is nothing exciting by way of script here though; nothing creative or original to write home about, just a bunch of individuals thrown together for sheer convenience. Karunakaran is the quirky, conniving (and hilarious) resort manager Sharath, and Oviya is his sister Sharanya, clad mostly in a skimpy sari, vying for Kiran’s attentions (the cat-fight could have been done away with, perhaps?). But then, there are genuine instances of comedy and horror. Also, surprises. The mysterious old man doesn’t have a sinister purpose, the guests are not what they seem and the old bungalow has a secret to keep.
But Yamirukka Bayamey does come with a lesson; one that we little realise. Horror, as a genre, is seriously under-appreciated. From the filmmaking perspective, that is. With comedy, there is always some space for a dud or two; but with horror, it has to impress. Frighten. There is no room for error here. You can’t afford to have an audience who laugh their way through a horror show. But Yaamirukka Bayamey accomplishes just that, in a good way. It frightens you; but it also makes you smile. There isn’t a great story here, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because, when you come laughing out the theatre, you just don’t care where that comes from.
PS: We aren’t great fans of the jump-out-at-you screamers, but what works here are those artfully curated moments of situational comedy that follow immediately.
PPS: It’s interesting to see how the girlfriend is always modestly attired; while the “other woman” who courts the hero is not. Some things just don’t change.