On days like these, it's only natural for people stuck at home to seek out comfort in comedy. For Malayalees, this means YouTubing old comedy clips from Priyadarshan-Sathyan Anthikad-Siddique-Lal films that take you back to a time when life was far more predictable and peaceful. But even for those who're absolutely obsessed with scenes from Kilukkam, Midhunam or the Dasan-Vijayan series, we run a risk of quickly running through them. After that first week, this desperate search for comfort comedy quickly takes us to a second (or even third) set of films that makes up this period. We then start to keep useless concepts such as "taste" aside and go back to films like Kinnam Katta Kallan, Kireedamillatha Rajakanmar, Kudumba Kodathi, Mookilla Rajyathu and even, dare I say, Aalibabayum Aararrakkallanmarum.
The set up of Sidharth Bharathan's Varnyathil Aashanka, with each character getting separate shady introductions, feels like a tribute to these films (Manikandan Achari even uses Jagathy's iconic line "oru kochu Maruti car kittiyal' early on). But those films are just that. You can scroll through the "story" parts to get to the fun stuff. But, what if a film that starts off with a trashy fun set up goes on to become a surprisingly well-written heist movie that's equal parts thrilling as well as LOL funny? That's what Varnyathil Aashanka feels like.
None of these characters has an inkling of morality — each one is as cunning and conniving as the other. The script too is, thankfully, bereft of any forced morality. Bad people do bad things, but terrible things DON'T always happen to them. At first, you feel it's just them, even as they plan to steal a large quantity of gold on a hartal day (which they were responsible for). But everyone in the film, right from the police officers to the jewellery shop owner, is just like them. Revealing more would mean robbing the first-time viewer of all the great writing that has gone into it, especially an ending you don't expect in the least.
Of course, the musical cues to underline each funny line or scene can get exceedingly tiring as we go along. The Thrissur accent, fluctuating with each actor (especially Suraj Venjaramoodu and Kunchacko Boban), can get a bit frustrating too. But it's a film that's consistently surprising and funny in many clever ways. Watch out for lines like how a smoker asks the shopkeeper to switch the packet with an impotency warning to the regular "cancer" one and some old-school wordplay like when a priest, after getting his bike stolen, looks towards the church and says, "Mishiha, Ente Yamaha."
Why didn't this film create a bigger impact when it released? Why aren't more people adding this to their list of favourite comedies? Whatever be the reasons, this is just perfect for some comfort during a lockdown.