Director: Emcy Joseph
Cast: Soubin Shahir, Suraj Venjarammood, and Surabhi Lakshmi
In Vikruthi (Mischief), debut director Emcy Joseph accomplishes a difficult feat. He turns a real-life cybercrime incident that happened in Kerala two years ago – perfect material for a government-sponsored PSA video about cyber crimes – into an affecting human drama that looks into some ugly aspects of human nature.
A young man photographs a stranger sleeping on a metro train and posts the picture on social media with a caption that creates a false narrative. It goes viral and turns the idyllic life of the man in the photograph upside down. In plain-sight, there is a victim and an accused in this case. But instead of painting people in black and white, Emcy takes a closer look at the two men involved in this case, and lets the audience participate in the emotional ride they go through.
Vikruthi opens to some great slice-of-life moments. The two men going about their life. Samir (Soubin Shahir), a young man who works in a middle-eastern labour camp, has just arrived in Kochi for a month-long vacation. He wants to get married and settle down. Eldho (Suraj Venjarammood) is a mute man who works in a private school in Kochi. He leads an idyllic family life in Aluva.
The film has a great eye for details. We see that the two men, who are practically strangers to each other, share many common strands. They are law-abiding lower-middle-class citizens whose ambitions are woven around their family. Their needs and wants are limited.
When seen from a distance, Samir is one of the many men who lead a double life — as an extrovert in the virtual world who feels an urge to stay in touch with a crowd of strangers and friends, and as an introvert who can’t speak to the woman he likes in real life. He broadcasts updates from his life every day or multiple times in a day. Emcy’s film humanises him by looking at his private life, where he is a sincere young man who wants to lead an uncomplicated life.
For most parts, the film is subtle and domestic scenes play out delightfully. The camera doesn’t intrude but watches the characters from a bit of a distance. The dinner table scene at Samir’s house on the night of his homecoming, for one, gives us a lot of information about the family. Samir might have a secret love. The brother-in-law might be in financial crisis. But none of these details come to the foreground of the scene. Instead, the scene gently informs the audience of how each member of the family protects the other. Eldho and his wife overcome their speech disability with the help of the people around them. The people he comes across, like a nurse at a government hospital or a police inspector, are eager to help him. There is nothing saccharine about their behaviour. They are just normal people who want to be nice.
What the film doesn’t attain is a similar quality of subtlety in the final sequences where it starts to become a cautionary drama about cybersecurity. The film stretches out Samir’s mental ordeal, and in its desperation to find an end to the drama, introduces a character – a moderator or a stand-in for the country’s legal system. The scene is verbose, melodramatic and more importantly, boring. It changes the nature of the film altogether and pulls it down to mediocrity.
Vikruthi has a great cast that includes Irshad, Surabhi and Mammukkoya. Soubin Shahir fits perfectly in a role that reminded one of Majeed from Sudani From Nigeria. He is effortless on screen. However, it is Suraj Venjarammood who delivers the finest shot. He is extraordinarily fluent as Eldho, who is caught off-guard in trouble. It is astonishing to see how perfectly eloquent Eldho turns out to be although he speaks not a single word in the film. Suraj pays attention to every minute detail of the character – Eldho’s pleasant persona, the way he bottles up his anger and sadness, and how he breaks down in front of his son one evening. His introduction scene is particularly well-written. He is on a bus, sitting by the window, lip-syncing to a popular song from the bus’ stereo. When a fellow passenger asks him for direction, we come to know of his disability. The film’s casual tone remains intact — there is no background score that tries to evoke sympathy. He can’t speak, but he writes the address down for the person. The film doesn’t look at his life with an impulse to see how ‘not normal’ it is. There is a refreshing sense of everydayness in the scene.
Vikruthi is a largely a beautifully crafted film that has no pretensions. It’s capacity to be poignant arises from its commitment to look at its characters as real people with shades of grey. If only the makers hadn’t settled for an easy finale that simplifies a complicated issue and turns it soppy.
The Vikruthi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.