Bhootha Kaalam Malayalam Movie
Rahul Sadasivan builds a sense of existential dread in Bhoothakalam, a musing on the human condition. As the title suggests, the movie shows how our past continues to haunt us in the present.
Revathy plays Asha, a kindergarten school teacher with mental depression. Asha's son, Shane Nigam's Vinu, is a graduate in pharmacy who struggles to find a job in his area. Asha does not want to let her son go away from her for a job as she struggles with her own demons. It further strains the relationship between the mother and son. A standard meal over the dinner table becomes the setting for an altercation as the characters start blaming each other for their life situations. There are scenes in the movie without both characters that show what they think about each other.
Bhoothakalam discusses serious things about alcoholism, smoking and society's perception of depression. Watch how Asha goes back into her home and draws the curtains when her neighbor asks her about something she does not want to hear. It works as an insight into the woman's state of mind.
Director Rahul Sadasivan uses no gimmicks in telling this unsettling story. One of the most fascinating things about the movie involves the existence or non-existence of ghosts. Vinu has supernatural experiences in the house, but everyone else doubts his sanity. As we know that the characters have mental concerns, we wonder whether Vinu's visions are figments of his imagination or real. Rahul Sadasivan keeps us in the dark about fact and fiction till the very end. With the help of his cinematographer Shehnad Jalal and Gopi Sundar's background music, Rahul creates an atmospheric film that almost gets under our skin. The ambience of the movie mirrors the sense of claustrophobia in the minds of the characters. The acting is also outstanding.
Shane Nigam behaves and emotes in a way that makes Vinu's animosity and angst palpable. Revathy once again shows why she is one of the best actors for the horror genre. As in Ram Gopal Varma's Raat, we feel anxious about her life when she is scared for hers. Athira Patel has a cameo role, whose sole purpose is to show the contrasting nature of the life of her character Priya and that of Vinu.
My only issue with the movie is over the treatment of the medical professional played by Saiju Kurup. I do not want to elaborate on it to avoid spoilers. I also did not get scared for my life when watching the movie. Bhoothakalam is not the scariest Indian movie, an honor that best suits Raat. I remember watching Raat at night and not being able to go to my kitchen for water. This film lacks that impact, but it is not that kind of film either. It is more unsettling than scary and more of a good film than a movie that scares the hell out of us.
That said, you may react differently to the film because our response to a scary movie depends on our level of tolerance to it. In that regard, I am not that easily scared. But I did enjoy the few jump scares in Bhoothakalam and appreciate the treatment of the film. If you like Bhoothakalam on SonyLIV, watch The Babadook on Amazon Prime.