For Sanu John Varughese's Aarkkariyam, I recommend you go in blind without any information. Stay away from the synopsis, the posts, and the reviews (including this one). The less you know, the more rewarding the experience would be. If you have watched Aarkkariyam, then continue reading. You have been warned.
Still here? Aarkkariyam is a mystery/drama film that relies on the power of contemplation. It absorbs the viewer like a sponge with its long, meditative shots. We are taken back to the early days of the pandemic when the world was still figuring out the coronavirus. This COVID setting introduces discomfort within the skin of this film which, on the surface, moves slowly and gently as if it has ample time to spare. While the opening credits keep on rolling, we are fixed on a man working on his laptop. He is Roy (Sharaf U Dheen), a businessman facing financial obstacles whose problems worsen due to the COVID-19. He is married to Shirley (Parvathy Thiruvothu), and together they decide to go to Shirley's father, Ittyavira (Biju Menon), in Pala, Kerala.
Aarkkariyam invites us to observe the characters. We see them cooking, talking, making phone calls, and discussing monetary disputes. It's routine as usual until Ittyavira coolly apprises Roy about the body he has buried behind the kitchen. Pay attention to the tone of Ittyavira's voice. He is not making a confession. He is merely informing Roy about an activity he had done in the past. It's like he is saying that he had brought bread from the market a long time ago and forgot to unwrap the packet. There is no urgency or weight in his statement. A lesser or more thriller-obsessed film would have dramatically and gravely underlined this moment. Aarkkariyam understands this information is shocking and does not require unnecessary emphasis. We are there with Roy, confused and wondering what the hell just happened!
Slowly you form a connection between Aarkkariyam and Drishyam. The two films focus on protagonists who commit murder for their families. Drishyam had a police officer who supplied the cat-and-mouse thrill to the story. Aarkkariyam chooses to gravitate towards internal conflicts. The guilt and secret one has to carry inside one after participating in a crime. You may achieve triumph by getting away from the killing, but your actions put a burden on your consciousness. And when you share your thoughts with someone, you don't just share a secret but also the penitence and encumbrance associated with it. Roy knows that the body belongs to Shirley's former husband, but he cannot reveal it to her. Like Ittyavira, Roy has to take this knowledge to his grave.
Shirley is Ittyavira's daughter. Still, you sense a stronger bond present between Roy and Ittyavira. She is always kept at a distance, as Aarkkariyam concentrates on the two men. It's like even the film is trying to shield her from the horrifying fact. How she would have actually reacted to the disclosure is something we can never know. Maybe she would have accepted the truth, or maybe not. The skeleton, after all, belongs to someone who had implanted different images in different minds. Some saw him as a helpful well-wisher who arranged cash for the operation of someone's elder sister. Others, like Ittyavira, saw him as a neglectful husband. Whatever be his true personality, the man is long gone. In the end, it's not the crime that sends the chills down your spine. Rather, it's the film's notion that a happy household is built using the bricks of offence and strengthened with the cement of clandestineness.