At times, you find yourself ridden with second thoughts once you have bought a book. You leave it on your table for a couple of months, hesitantly run your fingers along the cover, and toss it aside from time to time. And then one fine evening, you flop into a chair with the book in your hands, deciding to leaf through its pages once and for all. And before you know it, you are engrossed and you regret having given it the cold shoulder all this while. 'Chapters', the debut film by Sunil Ibrahim, is a film that reminds you of one of those unputdownable books that leave you shaking your head in disbelief once you are done reading the very last line.
My apprehensions regarding this particular film were many. I should admit I pictured Sunil as yet another director who was out to make hay while the new generation sun shone in all its glory. I could sense that this was a film that had a multiple narrative format, and having been through some extremely ridiculous cinematic experiments in the genre recently, I wasn't really sure.
And it all starts off quite slowly, with four friends Krishna Kumar (Nivin Pauly), Anwar (Hemanth Menon), Joby (Vijeesh) and Kannan (Dhananjay), devising a not-so-commonplace plan to make some quick money. It all works out well, and the moolah comes almost within reach, when their plan goes all awry. A heaven that had just about appeared in the skies disappears and their future turns cloudier than ever.
Waiting for the last bus to town is Sethu (Sreenivasan), who is joined by an elderly woman (KPAC Lalitha) at the bus stop. They strike up a conversation and she reveals that she has a son who is cooling away his heels in the jail. He isn't feeling any better either, since he is on his way to the hospital, where his young son awaits a surgery and chemotherapy.
Arun (Vineeth Kumar) has sought the services of his friend Vinod whom he rechristens as Choonda (Shine), precisely since the latter has the skill to scare the daylights out of anyone with his rugged looks. They are out on a mission, and along with Kaanu (Aju Varghese) and Jincy (Ria Saira) set out to register a marriage - that of Shyam (Rejith Menon) and Priya (Gauthami Nair). Having stopped for a brief while to take in some fresh air, the six youngsters find themselves in for a rude shock when out tumbles a nearly dead man from their car.
An anxious Annie (Lena) waits by her son's bedside in the hospital awaiting her husband's (Sreenivasan) arrival. She is astonished when he arrives with the money, but refrains from taxing him with further questions. She does manage to convince him however that the money that he has brought in should better be left where it truly belongs.
These individual stories that make up the four chapters in the film are knit together into a stunningly delightful whole, and it's this truly cinematic storytelling technique that makes 'Chapters' interesting. In the very last scene, as Sethu pushes the money bag across the seat to Krishna Kumar sitting next to him, life has come a whole circle, and as the camera moves away you see innumerable circles all around them, telling a multitude of stories that we haven't yet been a part of.
This lovely thought is more than uplifting, and the millions of stories that haven't been told, furnish cinema with a fertile ground to build its dreams on. The young boy who is out on the fields at night catching frogs to make a living must have a tale that deserves to be heard. So would the lottery dealer at the bus station or the slum dweller who puts up a fight against potential invaders into his territory. Ramesan who drives the tourist cab around would have a story to tell, while the verbose bus conductor and the heavy-eyed hooker would without doubt have tales of their own.
It isn't that effortless a task to merge these four chapters together, and Sunil Ibrahim has managed to do so with a precision that is quite striking. This integration isn't always smooth, and despite the jerks here and there, I should say I was happy with how it all gelled together. And when it throws those characters together in fine permutations and combinations, you realize that life has a tremendous fable like quality to it.
As the film winds up, you are left with a subtle and yet affirming suggestion as to who Krishna Kumar's sister might be. And it's this ability of the film to work on so many different levels, and the warmth that it exudes throughout, that makes this multi-plotted portrait stand out from the crowd.
It's always heartwarming to see a bunch of talented young men and women put up their best act, and 'Chapters' bears testimony to this fact. Nivin, Hemanth, Vijeesh, Dhananjay, Aju, Rejith, Gauthami and Ria are really good, while Vineeth Kumar relaunches himself with aplomb. Sreenivasan, KPAC Lalitha and Lena are at their best, while Shine in a cameo turns out to be the scene stealer. Especially worth a very special mention are the lilting background score by Mejjo Jospeh, and the dazzling cinematography by Krish Kymal.
The potentials of experimental story telling are explored to the hilt in Sunil Ibrahim's debut directorial venture. 'Chapters' is a film that catches you totally off-guard and with its wrenching impact it announces the arrival of yet another gifted director in Mollywood.
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