Rating: **** ½
To make a film so profoundly moving on the 2018 cataclysmic floods in Kerala is not an easy task. Director Jude Anthony Joseph has managed the impossible. He has converted a natural disaster into a cinematic symphony of trauma and healing .
Every character , no matter how big or small, is etched in vivid colours, and no matter how insignificant a gesture of kindness may seem from the outside, every helping hand is contoured with compassion.
True,the cornucopia of characters is initially daunting , even to those who are familiar with Malayalam actors, the outflow of population gets unmanageable. And yes at time the mellow drama descends into melodrama. But once the actual story kicks in , there is much to appreciate and applaud as a flood of dexterously crafted heart-in-the-mouth episodes, and moments where it is hard to hold back our tears, ,merge with an accentuated flourish.
The first rule of a successful survival drama is that the crisis on hand should hold the audiences by their throats and not let go till the last shred of emotion is exhausted. 2018 builds its drama on a solid foundation. It has at its disposal a slew of super-talented actors , none more so than the incredibly charming Thomas Tovino who brings to his ex-soldier’s role an exceptional rhythm and grace . The way his do-gooder character Anoop spreads his goodness out into Nature’s fury is comforting and inspiring.
But Tovino is not alone in his heroic positioning in the plot. There are bravehearts flooding this fabulous film on the furious floods in Kerala that showed the wrath of Nature and the compassionate side of the human nature, reified so eloquently in the truck driver Sethupathi( played by a superbly nuanced Kalaiyarasan) who reforms from a self-seeking nomad to a home loving family man .
The most well written roles are those played by the magnificent Lal as the brash but benevolent patriarch of a fishing family, and his sons played by a likeable Asif Ali and Narain,who use their skills in the ocean to fight the ferocity of the floods.
The sore point,if an,is that a gallery of beautiful actresses get submerged in this tale of masculine bravery , which is the way it was , and is, during a time of Nature’s fury. I wish the screenplay(by Jude Anthany Joseph and Akhil Dharmajan) had more breathing space for less characters.
There are so many people crowding the canvas that sometimes it feel s like the director has bitten more than he can chew. But the sheer enormity of the vision and the recreation of the floods in all its raging fury, will take your breath away.The cinematography (Akhil George) captures the calamity with equanimity while the editing(Chaman Chakko) makes you wonder what’s been left out.
Finally , the death of two of the protagonists left me deeply saddened. They were not just characters on the screen. They were people I carried home with me, saving lives at the risk of losing their own.Who does that!
Watch this epic masterpiece about large hearts on the large screen. A flood of characters , from a man rushing home by train truck and what-not to bridge the right with his wife, to a blind man waiting to be rescued , will haunt you. This illuminating illustration of the spirit of kinship during crisis will serve as cinematic beacon of hope for many years to come.