Ranjith Sankar's 'Varsham' is an incisively scripted and compellingly performed drama, brimming with subtle nuances and oodles of humanity. A magnificently touching, tragic film that soaks you up in melancholy and optimism, 'Varsham' is a candid exploration of love, death and life itself.
Venugopal (Mammootty) runs Anand Finance, named after his teenage son, who is all set to appear for the medical entrance examination. A fiercely self-centred Venu slowly but steadily builds up a business empire of his own much to the chagrin of his competitors, while his wife Nandini (Asha Sarath) busies herself with getting Anand geared up for the brutally cut-throat adult world out there. When an unforeseen tragedy descends on their lives without as much as a forewarning, Venu and Nandini startlingly look away from one another for a while before they learn to lean on to each other, and rediscover the very rationale of their existence.
It is impossible to ignore the allusions that Ranjith Sankar's 'Varsham' bear to Robert Frost's celebrated dramatic poem 'Home Burial', where in a few narrative lines, the poet unravels a couple inundated by grief caused by an irreparable loss. The woman is astounded by her husband's passivity and is quick to decipher it as indifference. In 'Varsham' there is a role reversal taking place; Venu is unable to understand why life has been so unfair, and is troubled by Nandini's efforts to tether together what is left of her life.
Never before perhaps, has the impact of a loss been so efficiently captured in Malayalam cinema, and it's remarkable that the film takes it time for letting Venu and Nandini regain the lost smile on their lips, fragile though it is, when it finally makes a reappearance. When the circle of consolators has dissolved and the very last word of solace has been spelt, the couple is left alone to revert to their previous selves and realize how barbed a process it could be, especially when the purpose of their lives has long disappeared into oblivion.
'Varsham' is another stringent reminder of the uncertainty of life, and it will remain the greatest irony that as we walk out of the theatre back into our busy lives all in agreement, very little will have changed overnight. The multitaskers that parents these days aspire their children to be, have to dabble with manifold skills any given moment. Anand is no exception, though he amiably gives in to the demands of his parents with a grin, and at times a raised brow. Over the years, perhaps he has got used to the expectations that have been heaped on his young shoulders, and has learned to live with it with a shrug. As any kid of his age, he is pretty unsure of himself, and yet nurses a kind heart that reaches out to those in need.
Ranjith Sankar takes up a crisis and breaks it down to a realistic, deeply affecting, human level, through a series of dialogues that are heart rending. There are also times when a mere visual conveys even more. When Shambhu (Sunil Sukhada) looks at Venu impassively, after having been harshly reprimanded by the latter for having sent his sick son to play, you sense that reason has indeed gone for a ride. Sometimes, questions have no point whatsoever, and answers are best left unuttered. When fortune goes for a toss, Shambhu reappears again declaring to all and sundry that his son is hale and hearty once again. A teary Nandini is overjoyed to hear the news, while Venu looks on at the boy with abhorrence writ large on his face.
The plot framed by a long flashback comes to a standstill, as Nandini asks Venu if it's time to go. Together, they walk out into a world where there is so much more to be done. The dazzling light that eggs them to live on, shines in abundance. There isn't a hero around; there is merely a human being, who has finally decided to be human.
Mammootty lends his heart and soul to Venu, and comes up with a well rounded and emotionally raw performance that will, without doubt leave your eyes moist on several occasions. Venu's journey along a path of self destruction to self recognition and eventually self assurance is perfectly secure in the hands of this amazing actor, who has time and again enthralled us with his magical feats onscreen. Whether it be the sob caught somewhere down the throat, the trembling lips, the irresolute gaze, the delicate smile or the compliant sigh, Mammootty excruciatingly dwells on these trifles and many more to deliver one of his most precise performances in recent times.
The amazing screen chemistry that the actor shares with Asha Sarath is undeniably one of the reasons that make 'Varsham' special. Asha is at her very best in the film, and does a sharp roundabout at the dramatic pivot in the narrative, thereafter surpassing all expectations with an intense act that will burn on screen for some time to come. And together they are sheer dynamite, unleashing a torrent of emotions that should sweep quite a few hearts away in the deluge that arrives in its wake.
I have a special word of appreciation for Prajwal Prasad, the charming youngster who maintains a magnetic appeal from start to finish. Mamta Mohandas has been perfectly cast in the role of the considerate doctor who recreates a new world for Venu and Nandini, especially since I'm yet to see another actress who could thus speak volumes with her empathetic eyes.
And of course, there is the relentless rain that tells a story of its own. It's astonishing to watch it change colours, readily acquiring the emotions of the onlooker, ecstatically splattering away a moment and desolately wailing at another. And when everyone has gone and their legends told, it will douse the soils again, wherein fresh tales will sprout again.
'Varsham' is a soothing shower of compassion and goodwill that is undoubtedly Ranjith Sankar's best work as yet. It is at once an outstanding tale of resilience and a tearfully inspirational chronicle of benevolence; an exquisite downpour that each one of us need to get blessedly drenched in.
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