19 (1) (a) Malayalam Movie

Feature Film | 2022
Critics:
19(1)(a) is an indirect exploration of the incident it discusses and the politics that triggered that incident. The film has some flaws, but it's politics is so powerful that it stays with you even hours after watching it.
Aug 2, 2022 By Sreejith Mullappilly

19(1)(a) starts with the image of a famous writer and the sound of bullet shots. Writer-director Indhu V.S. does not show whether the bullets hit and harmed Vijay Sethupathi's writer Gauri Shankar. Even so, we feel that the incident has killed the man. The incident and the name of the writer remind you of real-life journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot to death for her political views. Later, we realize that what happened to Gauri Shankar here is similar to the real-life incident.


The film is not a direct exploration of the incident or the politics that triggered it. Rather, it explores the same things indirectly, from the viewpoint of a photocopy shop owner played by Nithya Menen. Shankar leaves the original copy of his latest book in the store, and the film is about what Menen's character will do with it. The film has an interesting premise as well as a new approach to storytelling that demands the involvement of a lead actor with a strong ability to internalize her feelings.


It is a slow-burning film with long stretches of storytelling where the story does not go where it should go. You may regard those as meandering passages, but they are an attempt from the filmmaker to establish a relationship between the writer in the film and his admirer. It is a tricky film to execute because the pattern of storytelling here does not rely on elaborate flashbacks or backstories. Whatever little flashback content or backstory the film has, mainly shows the nature of Gauri Shankar's work. In one scene, Indrajith Sukumaran's Anand asks Gauri to concentrate on fiction, and the writer says that there is not a lot of difference between fiction and truth. It is an interesting idea, but the film does not quite elaborate on it. The maker mainly uses the idea to explain what happened to the writer and why.


The film also talks about the father-daughter relationship between Srikant Murali's Gangettan and Nithya Menen's character. Here, too, there are long stretches of silence and passages that lead the audience to nowhere. We only know that the father is not in the best of mental states and that the daughter has little time to dedicate to him. Do not expect Indhu's film to explore personal relationships deeply. Perhaps the only relationship that it explores quite well is the one between Nithya's character and her friend played by Athulya Ashadam, but it does not play an integral part in the film. This leaves us with a reasonably engaging film without enough emotion but with many ideas, especially a potent one about freedom of speech. The title of the film refers to the article in the Constitution concerning freedom of speech.


The performances are good across the board, but there are some issues with regard to acting too. Nithya Menon does a commendable job of holding our attention when the film moves slowly, but her accent suits a cosmopolitan more than a villager. Vijay Sethupathi plays the writer with conviction, though. I really like the effortless nature of Vijay's acting but have a slight issue with regard to his character. He writes stories in Malayalam but speaks broken Malayalam, which makes no sense.


Most of the technical aspects of the film are good, though. Manesh Madhavan's camera beautifully captures life in a quaint, little town. Govind Vasantha's music is a bit too loud in some places but mostly does a good job of holding our attention when the film starts to meander a little. The best thing about 19(1)(a) is its politics, which is so powerful that you cannot get the film out of your mind even hours after watching it.

Sreejith Mullappilly

   

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