The most famous love stories are tragedies, be it Romeo-Juliet or Antony-Cleopatra or the ones back home, Salim-Anarkali or Devdas-Paro. These characters have become synonymous with star-crossed lovers. Rajeev Ravi’s directorial debut film, Annayum Rasoolum is one such romantic tragedy.
Set against the backdrop of Fort Kochi and Vypin, the film revolves around the lives of working class families and their struggles. Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) is a taxi driver and Anna (Andrea Jeremiah) works at a saree shop. Rasool’s elder brother Hyder (Aashiq Abu) works at a ferry boat and wants to get a better life. He gets a job in Kuwait but is struggling to get his passport made. Rasool’s friends, Colin (Soubin Shahir) and Abu (Shine Tom Chacko) spend their time either drinking or getting into fights. Anna’s younger brother, Kunjumon (Shane Nigam) is a brat and is no different from Rasool’s friends. Violence is common and everyone here is frustrated and angry. It tells us about the lack of job opportunities in smaller towns and cities which pushes the youth into petty crimes. A fight breaks out between Rasool’s friends and Anna’s brother. Although Rasool has nothing do with it, he is still being chased by Kunjumon’s friends. He hides behind a statue of Mother Mary and few seconds later, Anna enters and lights a candle. This is the first time Rasool sees Anna. Hidden behind the wall, he keeps looking at her without even blinking an eye. It is love at first sight, indeed. The violence in the previous scene is in sharp contrast to this one.
Rasool begins following Anna. Like a stalker, he takes the same ferry everyday that Anna takes to work. He even lands up at her workplace. He does not utter a word rather he just looks at her and smiles. In the beginning, Anna looks back at him with resentment but her look softens with time. Rasool is too naive and innocent, to the point that he is unaware that he is behaving like a stalker and that it is actually wrong to follow someone and touch their belongings in their absence. His cellphone ringtone is a Emraan Hashmi song, suggesting that Rasool by all means, is a hopeless romantic. His face lights up in Anna’s presence. He has a child like innocence and decency. For him, it is simple. He likes her and wants to meet her. He doesn’t understand the difference between meeting Anna at her workplace and meeting her elsewhere. When his friends tell him that he should back out because he is a Muslim and she is Christian, it surprises him. It had never occurred to him that religion could be a barrier. When Anna brings it up and tells him that it won’t work, he replies that it isn’t his fault that he was born as a Muslim. He tells her that he works for a Hindu man and has had more meals at his Christian friend’s house than his own. He neither wants to convert to Christianity himself nor wants Anna to convert to Islam.
Since the film is set in the islands of Vypin, the actions take place in both water and land. Rasool is symbolic of water. Just like water, he goes with the flow, wherever he wants to go and nothing can stop him. He has no inhibitions. On the other hand, Anna is like land, absorbed and still. For most parts of the film, she has a straight face and comes across as restrained. When Rasool finally gathers the courage and tells her that he likes her, she remains silent. The next day, she wears a red bindi to work and looks for Rasool. When Rasool doesn’t turn up at the ferry, she sends him a blank message. There is a quiet acknowledgment of love. When Rasool asks her whether she likes him or not, she says she is afraid. Unlike Rasool, Anna is aware of the ways of the world. Therefore, she asks him if he would like to convert because unless one of them does, they won’t be able to get married. Although she is aware of the consequences of an inter-faith relationship, she chooses to go into one because her life had been no better and she had considered suicide before meeting Rasool. He becomes her escape. He becomes the reason she wants to live.
When they are first separated, he moves back to his village and helps his father at work while Anna spends her time sitting quietly in one corner of her room. Back in the village, a colleague tells Rasool that if he opens his eyes under water, he will see the face of his lover. Rasool makes an attempt and even the imaginary sight of her makes him happy. In one scene, Anna and Rasool make love to each other and few minutes later, we see him sleeping peacefully while Anna is awake and seems worried. It is symbolic of their personalities. While Rasool is a naive romantic, she is a realist. Even after a few attempts of separation, Rasool remains hopeful and never gives up but Anna becomes hopeless again.
In one scene, Anna is singing a hymn in the church. The lyrics of the hymn suggest that love means to endure and accept death. In another scene, Rasool is staring at the sea and a song plays in the background. The lyrics of which mean that Sufis told the world about the wonders of love but never did they warn that love also meant death. It is as if the film raises the question that if descriptions and explanations of love remain the same in all religions, then why do human beings seek to draw boundaries. These two scenes suggest that their romance will end in a tragic way.
When we, as an audience, watch a tragedy or read one, we are aware that it will not end well. It will leave us in tears but we still want to watch it with the hope of enjoying the little moments before it ends. Perhaps, even the characters, be it Anna- Rasool or Romeo-Juliet or Devdas-Paro, like the audience, seek to escape. They too fall in love despite being aware of the many challenges that they will have to encounter. It is because when they are in love or we are in the middle of the film, the end ceases to matter. It is as if the journey takes precedence over the end. For them, it is the journey of of falling in love truly, deeply and madly. For the audience, it is experiencing their journey.