'5 Sundarikal', the omnibus film comprising of five shorts directed by Anwar Rasheed, Amal Neerad, Aashiq Abu, Sameer Thahir and Shyju Khalid, handles the shift in styles and perspectives efficiently, evolving into a fine movie with full blooded characters and topnotch performances.
The tiny fingers that stick wedding announcement photographs from the newspaper on to the shabby pages of a notebook belong to Sethulekshmi (Anikha), a pretty girl who is yet to cross over to her teens. Along with her classmate (Chethan) who promises to let her into the secret behind a magic trick, she head over to a studio across the river banks, to get their photograph taken. Little do they realize, that the shutter click is all set to change their lives forever. Shyju Khalid's directorial debut 'Sethulekshmi' talks of bleeding bruises that are viciously clawed across the face of innocence. Shockingly brutal and extremely touching, I wouldn't mind watching '5 Sundarikal' time and again for this cinematic gem.
The residents of a housing colony eagerly await the arrival of the new tenants at 10 D in Amal Neerad's 'Kullante Bharya', and when they turn out to be a midget (Jinu Ben) and his stunningly beautiful wife (Reenu Mathews), they are shocked beyond their wits. The determined men folk strive hard to make their presence felt before the midget's wife, while the women folk sympathize and craft sob stories around her. However, when she emerges pregnant, the disappointment and disillusionment that she spreads among the onlookers is contagious. Amal Neerad, through 'Kullante Bharya' finally gets to silence his detractors, hits the bull's eye, and proves beyond doubt, that a spectacular script could of course work wonders.
In a story that bears the heady scent of the mist and the wild forests, Aashiq Abu's 'Gouri' has Kavya Madhavan playing a young woman, who expresses to her husband (Biju Menon) her desire to have a baby, on the eve of their first wedding anniversary. The morning after, her wildlife photographer husband disappears into the forest, and alone, she waits for his return, unearthing a perplexing puzzle that he has left behind for her. Aashiq's film is deliberately slow, and the breakdown of its protagonist complete. One that requires tremendous patience, 'Gouri' moves slowly towards a whopper climax that transfixes you onto your seats.
In Anwar Rasheed's 'Ami', a man (Fahad Fazil ) drives around the shady confines of a neon-lit city, hoping to strike a real estate deal before dawn. His aide (Chemban Vinod Jose ) keeps him company, and so do his wife Ami's (Ashmita Sood) frequent messages and phone calls. She poses one query after the other to him, the answers to which he discovers in the course of his strenuous journey beneath the stars. The breaking day brings to light revelations that he had almost missed out in the night. Rasheed surprises us yet again with 'Ami', which presents before us one bittersweet moment after the other, dipped in visual splendor.
Sameer Thahir's 'Isha' has a burglar (Nivin Pauly) as its protagonist, who having quickly tied up the sole occupant of a palatial mansion - a gorgeous lady with a fickle temperament - gets down to his business in no time. In a surprise move, the woman (Isha Sharvani) promises him two of the costliest things in the house, in return for his untying her. Over a glass wine, the couple moves to the terrace, to bring in the New Year under a splendid shower of fireworks. I should admit that 'Isha' denies the collection an opportunity to coalesce into a perfect combo, on account of its jaggedness. It isn't an unimpressive film in isolation, but along with the rest of them, it does appear out of place.
What is perhaps most appealing about '5 Sundarikal' is that it isn't a feminist film that remains obsessed with gender politics. On the other hand, it concerns itself with five women, who form the central characters of the tales that they tell on screen. The roughness in the tone and quality of their tales, is even endearing, which makes this anthology a trip worth taking.
The mounting tension, the hilarity, the swinging moods and the melancholy - it's all there in '5 Sundarikal', and the richness and depth retained to the hilt. At least two of the tales ('Kullante Bharya' and 'Ami') are as much about the men in them as they are about the women. The film is compulsively watchable because it purposefully defies categorization and liberally spreads across genres.
The five actresses, who have essayed the five major roles in the film, are all remarkably good, though the stellar performance that Anikha comes up with, towers way above the rest. The child artiste is a revelation, and we are sure to hear of several honors coming her way in the days to come. Kavya Madhavan is remarkably convincing as the bewildered wife, while Reenu Mathews brings in a very special charm to her portrayal of 'Kullante Bharya'. Isha Sharvani has the agility and liveliness that her character demands, while Ashmita Sood in a very brief role leaves a mark. One also needs to mention the dazzling Dhwani, who makes a very special appearance.
And if the women are right at the front, could the men be far behind? Somasundaram leads the pack with a dynamite act as the photographer with the sly smile in 'Sethulakshmi'. Dulquer Salman comes a close second, and as man rendered incapacitated by an accident, he is quite believable. Chethan blends into his performance the right amount of melancholy and joy, while Jinu Ben lends immense credibility to his portrayal of the jovial, short man. Fahad brings in an incredible fervor to his performance, while Nivin Pauly and Biju Menon come up with impressive feats.
'5 Sundarikal' as a portmanteau film dispels the oft cited notion that too many cooks spoil the broth. This splendid compilation is a remarkable achievement, in that each of the five films, though distinctly disparate from one another, offers the viewer a totally rewarding experience.