Joy Mathew's 'Shutter' is a keenly observed drama on human predicament that appears delectably funny at times and palpably poignant at others. This absorbingly well acted film is a cinematic triumph in every sense, especially in that it intensely satisfies as an intelligent exercise in effectual story telling.
It's just another night for Rasheed (Lal), a man who is enjoying his brief respite back home in Kerala, away from the smoldering deserts in the Middle East where he toils for the rest of the year, until he finds himself locked inside an empty warehouse with a woman (Sajitha Madathil) who promises him a sleepless night, for the few hundred notes that he offers to pay her. When his friend Sura (Vinay Fort) fails to return after having been arrested for drunken driving, Rasheed and the woman while away their time behind the padlocked shutter of the vacant store that seems to be transforming into a hell hole by the minute.
It's amazing how personal equations between two individuals work out in a circumstance where they have none but each other to reach out to. As Rasheed gets increasingly fidgety, the woman settles down comfortably for a short nap, and points out that he is free to lie by her side, if he wishes to. Don't you dare complain later, she warns. It's just another night for her, away from the confines of her home, with yet another stranger whom she is unlikely to meet ever again, and her thoughts are evidently limited to the visible bulge of his wallet.
For Rasheed however, it's a night of discovery; one in which he would finally ascertain where he truly stands, having sailed halfway through his life according to his own terms. He goes on an exploratory journey, where he discovers standing along the alleyways those who truly matter, while the ostensibly cherished ones disappear hurriedly into the shadows. As the day dawns and the night sets in again, Rasheed emerges from behind the shutter as a new man, and sets foot again in a new world.
The rest of the characters fit in the narrative effortlessly, and they move about in a city where you and I have probably lived in. Our nights have turned darker than ever, and we mistake alliances shaped over a bottle of alcohol for lifelong associations. The last drop of the drink having been drained away, you are left alone again, and in the stillness you worry sick of your teenage daughter falling prey to the wily ways of her boyfriends.
In another corner of the city, Manoharan (Sreenivasan) laments the fact that he was careless enough to lose his film script in an auto rickshaw. He curses his misfortune as everything else seem to have fallen into place, be it the reluctant producer who has finally consented to produce his film or the superstar who has kindly agreed to grant him the much required dates.
The voracious longing of the flesh is what makes men do the unthinkable. A smile that darts in the corner of Sura's lips, as he fiddles with the rear view mirror of the rickshaw to get a closer look at the lady passenger, speaks volumes of his yearning to be with a woman. The young man is exceedingly disappointed when informed that she is way above his league, and that sex has become a luxury of the rich.
The very last scene of 'Shutter' still has me hooked. The slight sense of improbability that is likely to have overwhelmed the scene disappears into thin air, as Manoharan finally gets to meet the person whom he had been eagerly waiting to catch up with. The lady ruefully admits that she had to give away a shirt that she had bought for him, and looks astonished when he asks her if it had big red flowers all over it. She nods in agreement, and whispers with a smile that she hasn't however given away the blooms. Not yet.
A seasoned actor as Sajitha Madathil, has already proven multiple times in the past what she is truly capable of, but she still enthralls us with a blast of a performance in 'Shutter'; one that no award or accolade would be able to do appropriate justice to. The nameless hooker is etched to perfection, thanks to the minutest nuances of the character that Sajitha cautiously lends attention to. Vinay Fort adds up yet another feather to his cap of first-rate accomplishments, and the anxiety-ridden rickshaw driver Sura is safe in the young actor's hands. Lal and Sreenivasan, with their engaging screen presence, endow further polish to the proceedings.
'Shutter' is a film that would linger in your mind, a long time after you have walked out of the cinema hall. It displays a heartfelt confidence that arises out of an absorbing theme that is resonant and revelatory. Filmed with much care, Joy Mathew's directorial debut reinstates your faith in fine cinema, and has already made it to my list of the most gratifying films of the year.