Aarkkariyam Malayalam Movie Review

Feature Film | Drama
The characters express deep thought for each other for a long time in the meditative and understated gem that is Aarkkariyam. This is not a plot-driven film but rather a contemplative one that shows how human beings behave in a particular way under some circumstances.
May 19, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Aarkkariyam is a contemplative film that looks at human nature from the viewpoints of some different characters. Two of them decide to go back to their homebound father in Kottayam after financial debt starts to affect their life in Mumbai. Roy has a consignment in the dockyard that goes nowhere as the city is fighting an epidemic. Sharafudheen's character Roy bribes local officials to have the consignment released from there. For the bribe, Roy borrows a hefty sum from his longtime friend, Saiju Kurup's Vyshak.

The film begins with Roy wondering how his wife, Parvathy Thiruvothu's Shirley, could sleep so well despite the family's financial trouble. The trouble causes them to go back to the home of their father, Biju Menon's Ittyavira, in Kottayam.

The film is about what happens after they visit the place and are forced to stay in a homebound state there. It is set in the early coronavirus period where PM Modi announces a nationwide lockdown. The COVID-19-induced state makes some of the characters think about their past lives and immediate future. There is Roy who still wonders how to meet his debt. Meanwhile, Ittyavira has his own issues to deal with. Ittyavira still grapples with a past deed that he thought would never come back to haunt him but has.

When he first meets Ittyavira, Roy seems to harbor the same kind of affection for him as what one would have for his longtime friend. But the past story of Ittyavira causes Roy to look at the old man from a new light. At the same time, Roy also learns revelatory things about his wife. Meanwhile, the woman in the family tries to bring their daughter back home from her convent school in Tamil Nadu. There, too, lockdown serves as a bane for the family.

As said earlier, Aarkkariyam is a film where the characters express deep thought for a long time. It is not a plot-driven film so much as a meditative one about how human beings behave in a particular way under some circumstances. For instance, Ittyavira regards a significant moment in his and his family's life as a form of divine intervention. So, the movie also has religious undertones to it.

There are long portions in the film where nothing much happens. That may put off some viewers, but genuine film buffs would acknowledge it as a way of allowing the audience to think about what the characters are going through. The labored pacing of the film is not just intentional but also well-earned. Sanjay Divecha fills those portions with non-electronic guitar sounds that add a sense of tonal balance to the movie on the whole. Its tonality stays the same right through, instead of oscillating between multiple extremes. Also noteworthy is Mahesh Narayanan's editing, which ensures a sense of continuity to the proceedings. For instance, a character behaves in a certain way early in the film, and we only know why it happens later.

Sanu Varghese directs the movie in a way that seemingly big moments come across as casual events. Instead of a drama with highs and lows, he keeps the film engaging with well-observed conversations while drawing out fine performances from the cast. Sharafudheen's performance with restraint lets us see Roy as a person who largely feels content about things rather than one who dwells too much on the past or future. His performance makes Roy's reactions to his father-in-law's deeds quite believable. Parvathy Thiruvothu makes Shirley a caring mother who also holds on to a sense of yearning for her past life. Yet, the film's best performance comes from Biju Menon. When watching him play the weak and aging Ittyavira, you would find it difficult to recall the same actor as a violent, suspended cop from last year's Ayyappanum Koshiyum. Like Suraj Venjaramoodu from Android Kunjappan Version 5.25, Biju Menon here is another case of an actor effortlessly playing an older person on screen.

Sreejith Mullappilly