The soul stifling experience that Shyamaprasad's 'Artist' is, leads us on to a world of paints and easels, palettes and pastels, where ingenuity and inventiveness flow on, in strokes and flourishes from the tip of a brush. The painterly detail that the director has on offer for us in 'Artist' , makes it a visually sumptuous film that engrosses us with its enchanting tale.
Gayatri (Ann Augustine) and Michael Agnelo (Fahad Fazil), students at the Fine Arts college, decide to move in together, despite opposition from their families. Starting life afresh, Gayatri works at a call center, having abandoned her dreams of pursuing art, while Michael stays home, painting as he had always dreamed of. The going however gets tough for Gayatri after a while, with an unsupportive and increasingly difficult Michael back home. When he is run over by a vehicle, Michael turns blind all on a sudden, and Gayatri finds the darkness seeping in steadily into her world as well.
Hopelessly lost in love, Gayu ties a heavy rock firm around herself and jumps into the sea to blissfully drown in the throes of adoration that she feels for Michael. Ironically, as she goes down and further down, never to return, she rediscovers her life in her frantic gasps for a gulp of air. The pangs of yearning transform her beyond recognition, and despite having evolved into a pale shadow of her former sparkling self, she refuses to give up even as the very last bit of consciousness dissolves seamlessly into the water around her.
'Aritst' skillfully explores the themes of estrangement and human alienation, and the dread that accompanies it. Finding herself blinded by Michael's charisma, Gayu moves away from her family, until the ties stretch and finally snap. Their new life together does not eradicate her isolation, and as Michael wraps further layers of self-centeredness around the cocoon that he has built for himself, Gayu looks around for ways to keep her passion for him intact.
The unforeseen tragedy that befalls Michael is the turning point - both for Gayu, and the film. The egocentricity of the artist now finds allies in frustration and aggravation, and together with loads of self-depreciation, they wreak havoc on the sanity of the woman who has chosen to live with him. In one particular scene, he screams at her, asking why she has chosen to stand beyond the doorsill, to which she feebly wonders aloud as to where he would like her to be.
This displacement and loss of space, and through it, the snatching away of free will and at a further point, even identity, is evident in Gayatri's spirited attempts to stay afloat in the surge of events that threatens to wreck her relationship with Michael. Her feet that make no noise are looked upon with immense suspicion by Michael, and she worriedly starts adding sound bites to his black world.
The sense of real tragedy that engulfs the film commences at the point Gayatri decides to slip in tubes of Prussian blue paint in place of empty color tubes in the paint cartons. As a blind Michael elatedly goes about painting one portrait after the other, all in shades of blue, we see his animated eyes brimming with a thousand hues. Unveiled before us, the dreams in his masterpiece collection drip blue, and every dark stroke reeks of a faith that the artist soon finds ripped apart.
Shyamaprasad has enthralled us often with the impeccable characterization in his films, and 'Artist' is no exception. It could even be suggested that it is perhaps one of his finest works till date, as it employs countless and variegated techniques to scrape the skin and flesh off the two leading characters, laying them bare and emotionally stripped before us.
'Artist' could very well boast of exemplary performances by its lead actor, and the assurance that these two young actors - Fahad Fazil and Ann Augustine - bring into their portrayal of Michael and Gayatri is simply stunning. It's almost impossible to think of another actor as Michael, and Fahad's amazingly visceral depiction of the artist and his frenetic struggle for expression is faultless. Ann Augustine comes up with a whopper feat, and her intensely expressive performance is one that will be discussed, admired and applauded in the days to come. And there is also Sreeram Ramachandran, who leaves a mark with a superlative performance in a supporting role.
The director's vision is remarkably lucid in Shyamaprasad's 'new film, which is a cinematic treasure that explores the most intimate realms of artistic inspiration. As a spectacular painting that leisurely comes to life, this dazzling portrait of the artist by an artist is as evocative as it gets.