Director Krishand’s second film Vrithakrithiyilulla Chathuram (A Minor Inconvenience) is a particularly disturbing film to watch during these particularly disturbing times. It begins with Seoul-based IT professional Manilal Ramachandran (Rahul Rajagopal) introducing himself to the washroom mirror as though he’s prepping for a job interview. “I am Manilal Ramachandran, son of Ramachandran. I am from Kerala, the Southern most state of India,” he starts.
Through his morning routine, we learn more about him, including his educational qualifications, his late mother’s maiden name and about his inability to converse in Korean. Beyond the nervousness of an interview, there’s a lack of confidence in Manilal, the kind you sense in people who aren’t sure of what they are saying. What he’s stating to himself during this rehearsal are all facts, yet they are lifeless, made up of hollow words with little meaning.
His name is Manilal and he is the son of Ramachandran, yet the details that make up his identity sound simply, like information. This becomes even clearer when he gets a phone call from home on his lonely Metro ride to work. Over the alienating sound of announcements in a foreign language, a cousin informs Manilal of his father’s death. There’s no shot of a helpless man breaking down at this news that follows. There’s no shot of the man holding back his tears either. Dressed in the black-and-white like an ultra-average officegoer, he walks along the ultra-colourful city centres of Seoul, like a zombie that has lost its appetite.
He agrees to take the next flight back but there’s no urgency or panic. An opportunist colleague insists that Manilal take the first flight out, but only so he can use his place during a girlfriend’s visit. For this colleague, this bit of news works out to be one of great convenience, but it’s the opposite for Manilal. Beyond the acceptance of his only remaining family member’s demise, it appears to be an inconvenience to him, one that he admits he would have avoided, given an option.
We understand this better when he finally reaches home or whatever you want to call the place of his father’s residence. Ramachandran, who died of cardiac arrest, had been dead for days before this news reaches Manilal. So when Manilal gets there, there’s an unbearable stench — his driver compares it to the one caused by a dead rodent. Ramachandran has strained relationships with everyone around him, and his decaying corpse was discovered by the newspaper boy. This stench has been causing another kind of inconvenience to their relatives, the local police force and, most importantly, members of the local residents’ association. These are practical are issues one can solve with the savings of an NRI, we soon learn.
But, what about the internal issues of Manilal? In a fascinating scene mirroring the film’s opening stretch, we find Manilal rehearsing an apology speech he must deliver in front of the residents’ association for the inconvenience he caused by neglecting his father. With the same lack of feeling we witnessed before his job interview, we see Manilal struggling to appear sincere as he appeals for forgiveness from his neighbours.
It is in this state of mind that he decides to seek escape, choosing to cycle from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam. In a painful journey that’s as internal as it is external, we see Manilal ride along the West coast to Karnataka on his father’s ill-equipped bicycle, sticking out against the surroundings the same way he did on his way to work in Seoul. He encounters concepts such as love, God, guilt, family and death along the way.
Vrithakrithiyilulla Chathuram is a portrait of a man who remains homeless wherever he goes. Culminating in surreal visions that take him back to his past, and, later, on a trip to Varanasi, we too travel with Manilal, hoping for this broken man to find it in him to break down and just…cry.
Vrithakrithiyilulla Chathuram premiered at The International Film Festival Of Kerala in 2019.