Lal Jose's third film of the year is a testimony to the kind of terrific director that he is; one who seems to have an almost miraculous way of shrouding the fissures in a script with a wave of his magic wand. 'Ayaalum Njanum Thammil' is a sentimental wallop of a film, which stands witness to one such revival, and the results are impressive.
The narrative flips from the present to the past and then back and forth repeatedly, and it takes a while before you get accustomed to these purposive jerks in the story line. The making of a doctor, or perhaps the making of a man is what is intended to be eventually arrived at, and almost an hour passes by before the film shifts gear. Dr. Ravi Tharakan (Prithviraj) gets posted at a rural hospital for two years, after having passed his examinations with great difficulty. The kind of doctor who can't say a diagnosis from a prognosis, Ravi has had a comfortable life till date, being in love and ragging juniors at college. However, at the rural hospital, things appear quite glum.
After a pretty much shaky start that involves a campus song, there arrives a messiah in sight in the film, who does an astounding trick of pulling back an almost derailed train back on the tracks. Dr. Samuel (Prathap Pothen), who runs the Redemption Centre at a misty old town in Munnar redeems not just the ailing and the less fortunate, but the entire film itself, as his seemingly brittle yet powerful presence trickles into us like the chill in the air that gently seeps in and refuses to go.
Dr. Ravi Tharakan cannot simply be hoisted to the iconic status of a conventional hero, because unlike the conformist idols, this is a man who has to deal with severe losses in life. There are a couple of occasions in the film when he breaks down totally; and the tears that he sheds make him more of a man and less of a staggering icon.
The first time he lets grief overpower him is when he realizes that a life with Sainu (Samvrutha Sunil) has suddenly turned out of bounds. When she is dragged away and forced into a nikaah with a stranger, Ravi and his memories of her, learn to sleep on a pillow moistened with the tears that drip down the corners of his eyes. Months later, his eyes well up again, this time with guilt and remorse, and perhaps the joy of discovering the man that he has always been destined to become, as he finds himself face to face with a judicial board set up to inquire into an alleged medical negligence on his part.
The self discovery lands Ravi on the worn down steps of an old school, where he sits chatting with a young patient who gushes excitedly about a nebulizer that Dr. Samuel has gifted her with. Ravi nods on with a tender smile, and gently places his palm over her tiny feet in unvoiced acknowledgement.
Surprisingly the women get to occupy the shady corners of the film, whether it be Diya (Rima Kallingal), the private secretary to the hospital chairperson, who unearths a few secrets on her own or Dr. Supriya (Remya Nambeesan), Ravi's colleague who stands by him through some testing times. The romance between Sainu and Ravi seems underplayed almost, and the chemistry that had made the pair look tremendously appealing on screen, is sadly found to be missing here.
Prithvi is spectacular as Ravi Tharakan, and the film could easily boast of his best performance this year. The young actor has meticulously brought about a precision to his essayal of the doctor, that is the best thing about 'Ayaalum Njanum Thammil'. Lending him ample support is Prathap Pothen, who with his melancholic eyes and almost apologetic smile, competently brings Dr. Samuel to life.
Jomon T John's cinematography leaves us spell bound yet again, not because of any visual wizardry that it displays on screen, but because of the delightful lethargy, as oxymoronic as it might sound, with which it lets those tiny emotions flutter and fall across the plains of your mind. The camera lingers on and on, wanting you almost, to take in every little bit that it has on offer, never letting you miss out on even the tiniest of details.
'Ayaalum Njanum Thammil' feels like a tapestry that is matted with threads of personal discovery, the emotional results of which are overpowering. Impressively directed and acted, this moving drama touches upon a lofty theme that deserves an ovation.