Language: Malayalam

Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas

Cast: Sunny Wayne, Aditi Ravi, Renji Panicker

It’s tempting, sometimes, to zoom in on one scene as the nutshell of a movie, and that scene, for me, came at the beginning of Alamara (cupboard), directed by Midhun Manuel Thomas. Arun (Sunny Wayne) is going to get married to the 47th girl he’s been set up with. This alliance seems to have clicked – hence the single-file train of cars en route to the wedding location, cars filled with Arun’s friends and family.

Suddenly, a relative gets a call. This bride isn’t to be either. She’s eloped. The man who took the call takes it upon himself to deliver this news to the people in the cars behind him, all of which have, by now, come to a halt. He sprints to the first car and says, “The bride has run away.” He runs to the second, does the same.

Down the line, he reaches a car that, unlike the others, has just one man in it, the man driving. Upon hearing the news, the man shrugs and says, “What should I do?”

As it turns out, this was a car that got stuck in the middle of the wedding procession. The man just wants to go his own way, but is now hemmed in by the cars in front of him, the cars behind.

Arun and his eventual bride, Swati (Aditi Ravi), similarly, just want to do their own thing, lead life as a couple in faraway Bangalore. But they’re hemmed in by his relatives on one side, hers on the other. The story is about how the great Indian family just won’t leave them be.

For a while, there’s the pleasure of being immersed in an old-fashioned sit-commy world. The husbands are henpecked. The wives are either quick to judge (which leads to taunts and barbs) or fearful of being judged.

Swati seems like a modern-enough girl, and I did not see why she’d get all “What will people say?” about Arun’s sister visiting Bangalore and choosing to stay with friends. But maybe underneath her modern trappings, she is the product of a particular culture – and the characters are lively enough to make us overlook these stereotypes.

For a while, there’s the pleasure of being immersed in an old-fashioned sit-commy world. The husbands are henpecked. The wives are either quick to judge (which leads to taunts and barbs) or fearful of being judged

I especially liked Arun’s father (Renji Panicker), a small-time businessman who won’t say anything directly to his nagging wife, but gets back at her passive-aggressively by naming his product after her. The product is toilet-cleaning liquid. And I laughed when I learnt he first turns to the Obit page to find out who’s died. Don’t we all know someone like that? Then we have the RSS-type who likes to breakfast on beef…

The situational humour, too, works up to a point. When Arun, on his wedding night, updates his Facebook status to “married,” his friends remark that if he’s finding the time to do this, maybe some other status of his has not been updated. The theatre exploded. And the cupboard of the title becomes a comic character of its own, as it is transported from this house to that one, that house to this one.

Swati’s parents buy this cupboard as a wedding gift, and Arun’s mother complains that it’s too huge for their modest home. Besides, it blocks the calendar on which she jots down her accounts. So it’s shipped off to Bangalore, and slowly this big piece of furniture becomes a metaphor for the small, petty things we let affect us.

This is where the film begins to fall apart, with contrivance (a thief!) after contrivance (a land-grabbing gangster!), and an ill-advised transition from comedy to drama. By the time we get to a separation and marriage counselling, Alamara becomes so tiresome that the homespun charm of the early portions is a distant memory.

Rating:   star

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