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Richter Scale 7.6 Malayalam Movie Review: It Is A Dreary Pretentious Father-Son Story!

Richter Scale  7.6 (Malayalam, Roots Video/ Koode)

Starring Murugan Martin, Ashok Kumar Peringode

Directed by  Jeeva KJ

Rating: **

Richter Scale  7.6 Review: The waves of   raves  are so  predictable. In  our country any cinema  about poverty, powered and punctuated  by long bouts of silence when  nothing happens, gets the  critics in a state  of collective orgasm.

Alas, not every film about  rural poverty is  Pather Panchali. And needless to say, Jeeva KJ is no Satyajit Ray. The silences in this  film are…how do we  say it?…unbearably sultry. In Ray’s ather Panchali. the  sounds of silence spoke to us  in a language that needs no words. Here the  silences do not speak. The  shroud the  caderverous   plot in sheaths  of disfigured distress.As if  saving money  on  subtitles.

 There are only two characters  in a  ramshackle but suspiciously neat  hut(art director gets marks for  the studied authenticity). The father Ramankunju(Ashok Kumar Peringode), the son Suku(Murugan Martin) and the unholy ghost: that being  the uneasy  friction  between them. Father  is  chained to  wooden cot,  thereby further reducing immobility in a  film that  mimics the  inert silences  of a frozen yogurt.The  older man is frequently threatened  by his son. Do they  have a history?  If they do, this film is  not interested.

 Incidental  characters drop in to sing tribal folk songs with the father.But the songs, traditional wails of  lost generations, hardly reduces  the  tedium that creeps  up on us  like  a slithering snake  looking for  some excitement in  the land of  the bland.

 Halfway through, the dynamic between  the father and son undergoes  a sea-change. Son breaks his leg and comes  home in a cast. At last, something moves. Father  who  until this point was  a mentally  unstable  man, chained and  singing, suddenly becomes  a caring father. He  cooks, bathes and mothers  his son who tells  the woman he loves, “It’s almost as  if the sickness  is gone.” She  looks back coyly at  the son and  says, “I’ve told my father not to look  for any other groom  for me.”

Ah, some more suggestion of immobility.The sickness  that  consumes this  film with a pretentious title. The sickness  of staying silent , ostensibly  pregnant silences . But actually  the  soundtrack remains inert  because there is  nothing to say. Of course the two  central  performances are undeniably strong. And  the camerawork(by  K Sujithlal)  sketches  gruff pastoral  images of a dying light catching two generations in  a  confined space with  little to  bind them except their mutual  despair.

There are very  few happy moments in this  sullen neo-realistic drama which Satyajit Ray  would have  watched  wondering if he did  the  right thing by  making Pather Panchali.

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