I should say I loved almost everything about Anil Radhakrishnan Menon's 'North 24 Kaatham' - the very detailed characterization, the unhurried plot build up and the steady maneuvering that takes you northward and the fun and frolic that lies splattered all along the way. And yes, this is indeed a road movie, in every sense of the term, in that it brings together on its canvas three distinct individuals who take to the road with a common end in mind.
Harikrishnan (Fahadh Fasil) is a software professional who apparently suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder. He colleagues abhor him while his parents are worried about him, and he spends his life behind a heap of tissues, wiping himself clean of every speck of invisible dirt. A harthal day sees him travelling to Trivandrum for a conference, and in the midst of the night, the guy ends up at Paravur railway station with two strangers - Narayani (Swathi Reddy) an employee with an NGO and a veteran comrade (Nedumudi Venu) for company.
The scenes and the mood as the odd trio traverses up the state on a day when vehicles have decided to stay off the roads keep changing their colors and tones in this tremendously entertaining film. The situations are genuinely uproarious, and the oddball Harikrishnan, with his penchant for hygiene endears himself to us in no time.
For the very important question as to why Hari decides to head northward instead of south, the answer seems obvious. You might be the most indifferent person the planet, and yet there might be a moment or two in your life that sets you off on a different path - a path, that you had never even dreamed that you would ever travel. It's this unpredictability that makes mankind so fascinating, or else we would all be carbon copies of one another!
There is no end to the bizarre circumstances that life lands us in, day after day, and yet it so happens that we walk through them almost blindfolded, letting life have its share of fun. Once in a while, we take off the blindfold to have a good look around, and discovers like Hari does, spectacles that we never knew existed!
I wished however that 'North 24 Kaatham' had ended where the journey northward had drawn to a close. But it doesn't, and goes ahead with a South 12 Kaatham instead. On the ride down, a romance sprouts and Hari emerges a new man. I am not against Hari discovering the fine nuances of a love, but I do believe that some things are better left unsaid.
It's such a pleasure to watch Nedumudi Venu in action after a long while, in a role that is truly worthy of the stupendous performer in him. His last scenes in the film inspire awe and respect, as he scrupulously lays down the emotions of a man, standing face to face with the greatest tragedy of his life. 'North 24 Kaatham' also has two brilliant young performers - Fahadh Fasil and Swathi Reddy - who are equally impressive. It's become slightly awkward now, heaping praise after praise on Fahadh, as he continues to surprise us with every film of his. But in 'North 24 Kaatham', he outshines his own recent performances and does exceptionally well as the slightly neurotic software engineer who unintentionally embarks on a life transforming trip. Swathi Reddy, with her irresistibly clear-cut feat leaves a smile on your face.
Jayesh Nair's non-fussy, luminous frames add a very special charm to the film, and equally noteworthy is the splendid musical score by Govind P Menon. Technically 'North 24 Kaatham' is first rate, and aided with heartfelt performances and some real intelligent writing, this is a journey that is worth every single step.
'North 24 Kaatham' is an articulation of the randomness of life; of chance and arbitrariness that brings about smiles and rekindles hopes. The emotional pitch that it maintains is mighty, which makes it a highly compassionate film that also marks a brilliant directorial debut.