As the sea goes about its incessant business relentlessly, a woman clad in a burqa walks towards it, getting her feet wet in the surf. She drops her veil and throws open her arms, drawing in as much of the openness around her as she can. Aneesh Upasana's debut film 'Matinee', sweeps up the dark and murky bylanes of Chennai to tell the story of this young woman and a man, whose lives change for the worse, one afternoon after the Matinee show.
Najeeb (Maqbool Salman), like many youngsters around him, dreams of making it big in films some day. He isn't able to believe his good fortune, when after an audition he is selected to do the lead role in a film. The movie world is far from Savitri's (Mythili) thoughts, but a drunkard father and a hell of a home drives her to Chennai where she becomes rechristened as Nisha, having been paired with Najeeb for their debut film together - 'Puthuvasantham'.
Najeeb, who with his family walks into the cinema hall to catch himself in action on screen, is terrified to see that 'Puthuvasatham' is a sex spring, and that his film has been liberally splattered with porn bits to bring in the crowds. Thrown out of his house, a distraught Najeeb lands up in Chennai yet again, where he meets his partner-in-crime Savitri, who soon starts shedding her clothes for soft porn films.
'Matinee' has a very sorry tale to tell. While there have been several films of late, that have celebrated the struggle that leads to glory and fame in cinema, few have held up a mirror to the crushed dreams, sweat and tears that litter the studios of Chennai. 'Matinee' tells the story of those tens of thousands of souls who have resigned themselves to a life amidst the dirt and grime of the metro, never for a moment forgetting the fateful day they had landed in the city, with hopes of making it big in the tinsel town.
The emotional transparency of the two leading characters in the film is quite arresting. Savitri ends up hating the whole world around her; the hoards of men who flock the theatres to watch her sparsely clothed curves, the producers who hover like vultures to have their share of the meal, and her fellow beings who force her to hide herself behind the flimsy defense of a burqa, assuming a false name and a fresh identity. Najeeb turns desolate by the day, as slur after slur is hurled at him, and he finally decides to end it all in the grubby confines of a shady lodge room.
Here is a brutally honest film that is not embarrassed with its female protagonist mouthing obscenities, as she returns home after work and gets to see a talk show on TV that portrays her as the queen of sleaze. The seething pain that the deep wounds have inflicted on her psyche find expression in a verbal onslaught that catches us out of the blue, even as a drunk and indifferent Najeeb looks on.
Superlative performances from the lead actors lend 'Matinee' the gut-wrenching intensity that it displays. Maqbool keeps the melodrama at bay and carefully underplays his part. Najeeb's sinking into oblivion is complete, courtesy the actor who expertly exposes the complex emotions that the character goes through. Savitri is defiant and refuses to give up, and her frustration, rebelliousness and rage, are captured exceedingly well by Mythili who delivers a career best performance.
'Matinee' is a dark parable that splendidly traces the ever changing contours of human lives. It reaffirms that the human power of endurance is immense and that as individuals we wobble along alleys of hope, fear, distress, anger and regret before turning around and walking down the hope street all over again.