The consistent inventiveness that Rajeev Ravi's 'Annayum Rasoolum' comes up with is arresting and refreshingly heartwarming. The deftly drawn characters and the amazingly well-rendered performances that enliven them make 'Annayum Rasoolum' a film that is incredibly poised and powerful.
The narrator Ashley (Sunny Wayne) tells us that the tales of the sea, reek of isolation. And that those on the shore smell of love. Speeding away as if there isn't another morn, Rasool (Fahad Fazil) appears to have totally lost his senses, when he almost runs over Anna (Andrea Jeremiah) on a dark night. The glimpse that he gets of her is only momentary, though her cold stare does manage to capture his attention. Days later on another night, he is busy running for his life, when he gets to see her again. Crouched in a corner of the church, he gazes up to see her veiled visage luminously lit up by the glow of a few burning candles.
Their journey of love starts right there, as Rasool starts following her everywhere around, never uttering a word, never getting in her way. The silence between them speaks volumes, and his coy smiles often return back unacknowledged. He remains doggedly persistent, until her darting eyes reluctantly give in to his presence. When he finally confesses his love to her, in one very short sentence that is over even before it had begun, she quietly walks away looking visibly hurt.
Anna is convinced that they are headed for doom, even as Rasool thinks otherwise. The first and only message that he receives from her is a blank one. Their conversations are very few and far in between, and Rasool's query if she loves him is met with a downcast reply that she is terrified. Later, she murmurs that she was all set to close the lid on her dark world, when he had walked into it.
Running for about three long hours, 'Annayum Rasoolum' is a lengthy film; one that requires a tolerant viewer to pay some real attention and the result is an intensely rousing cinematic experience. There are times when the film even goes static for several minutes, but then that is what makes it even closer to life. You feel like having resignedly settled down on a park bench facing the sea, with the sea breeze blowing across your face, watching each of those characters tell you the story of their lives.
In one of the very final scenes, Anna lies down on her bed, on the eve of her wedding, as Rasool cools away his heels in the jail. She does not appear devastated as the camera keeps on peering on her face for several minutes, and just as she closes her eyes for the night, we see a glint of determination seep into them.
The much elaborate character study that the film offers, focuses as much on the fine attunement between the two lead characters, as on the rest of the immediate world around them. Abdu (Shine Thomas Chacko) is a doting father and a compassionate husband, and yet he loses it all for being the terribly befuddled, reckless man that he is. Collin (Soubin Shahir) is in love with every pretty girl whom he gets to meet on the streets of Fort Cochin, and comes across as a good-natured fellow, with a domineering mother and a charmingly snoopy younger brother Kevin.
Rasool's elder brother Hyder (Aashiq Abu) is fast getting tired of his job on the ferry, and hopes to fly away somewhere far, where he could try something anew. His distant past as a juvenile delinquent props up all on a sudden, and the local police insists that he be not issued a passport, thereby crushing his modest dreams. Anna's dad (Joy Mathew) has remained inert for a long time now, while her idler of a brother adds up to her hell. Ashley rues the day he had given up on his love, Lily (Sija Rose), and keeps visiting her at the nunnery.
The personal tragedies that strike each of them leave them even stronger, suggesting that life does not come to a standstill at the end of it all. Fazila (Srinda Ashab) throws away Abdu's protective armor and learns to live alone, while Hyder resigns himself to a life without a passport. For Ashley, the narrator, finally a silver lining appears somewhere on the dark clouds that have loomed above for long.
The insight and sensitivity that Rajeev Ravi's 'Annayum Rasoolum' displays is one of a kind. The ostensibly leisurely pace at which the film unfolds, and the long stretches of stillness, leaves in its pathway several strikingly stirring moments that appear to have been etched straight out of a busy street or a moving passenger boat.
Fahad is an actor who has a few surprises in store for me, every time I watch him in action. You reach out to Rasool and you hope that he finds what he is yearning for, as Fahad's accomplished performance elevates the youngster to a totally credible character that you have known for a long while. I wouldn't mind watching 'Annayum Rasoolum' over and over again, to see this actor go about doing his job with an immaculate sense of exactitude, through a blinking of his eyes or the slightest suggestion of a smile.
The melancholic vulnerability that Andrea brings in to her portrayal of Anna is in tune with the lines that she sings as part of the church choir, that love offers you nothing but suffering, misery and death. The fragility, the hesitance and the final acquiescence are all competently captured by Andrea, who stunningly encapsulates who Anna truly is.
The splendid cultural terrain that the film painstakingly sets up is pitch perfect, in that the Mattanchery neighborhood is sketched down with absolute flawlessness. The magical musical score adds further to the ambience, as Madhu Neelakantan's outstanding cinematography scrupulously sees to it that not a pertinent detail is left out.
Rajeev Ravi's directorial debut masterfully captures the tale of two souls in love. 'Annayum Rasoolum' is an intimate romantic drama told with much grace and sophistication, that is without doubt, the best way to start off your New movie Year!