There are three reasons that Mahesh Narayanan's C U Soon works.
Making a movie under strictures is a difficult task. The imposed lockdown is one such scenario. Shooting a movie in this situation poses interesting questions: cast and crew, lighting and camera, set and make-up, extras and catering, etc. Beyond these technical challenges lie artistic decisions: capturing emotions, handling aesthetics, creating performances, maintaining efficiency and effectiveness, etc.
Through Fahadh Faasil's character, Kevin Thomas, the creators tackle moviemaking problems. Crafting a movie on a screen with nothing but a screen is an exciting prospect. We follow characters only through their digital presence. Naturally, the following questions pop up: how will the plot progress? How will the characters develop relationships and deliver performances? Will it get repetitive and boring? Fahadh Faasil and friends do not drop the ball often. Kevin Thomas acts as the director: sifting through the narrative, connecting dots and providing answers to all those questions.
The story can be slotted into the old tradition of noir: a male, in trouble because of a female, seeking help from a private investigator. In C U Soon, the private eye is Kevin Thomas: a partner at a data privacy company. His cousin, Jimmy Kurien, falls in love with Anumol Sebastian, and that kickstarts the plot machine. There is mystery, some suspense and an exciting chase for information carried out on the virtual battlefront. Noir worked because the audiences were always clawing for more information. Here too, we have the same urge to unravel the web of deceit. There is an additional layer of novelty because the scavenging is taking place with the character sitting in front of a computer and clicking on the keyboard just as I am doing right now. The how question is mirrored here. How will Kevin Thomas solve this crime by sitting at a computer miles away? C U Soon makes the answer watchable by making… Shall I call it virtual noir?
David Fincher famously said that audiences are perverts. The third reason that C U Soon works is proof of that: perversity. As viewers, we are entering into personal spaces of characters. We are watching them through devices they use to watch the world. It is a window for them to look out. We use it to look in. Jimmy and Anumol become intimate. We are watching them through the very medium they are using to connect: the internet. We tune into their lives when we want and leave before things get boring. We feed off their life by turning it into drama for us. Our viewing platform is also the same: Amazon Prime. By transforming our real-life activities into data packets, streaming platforms are converting us into identifiable targets. Our choices are categorised and patterns recognised. Using these data sets, they have probably presented the very movie I am writing about on your Prime landing page. We are consuming ourselves. One thing connects the story, the streaming platform and us together: the internet. The whole process of story consumption is absolutely perverse. The creators don't explore this angle thoroughly. They leave it un-tackled, perhaps for the better, to avoid burdening the plot. This nuance, though, could've enhanced the experience for one Kartik Iyer.
There is also a fourth aspect to C U Soon that functions as a drawback. The story is emotionally potent. Since the medium of expression is significantly restricted due to real-world problems, the creators must have had doubts about the content's effect. How do we stage an emotional scene without film-making apparatus at hand? Can modifications have the same effect? To counter this problem, the creators overdo. They push for emotions when they could've trusted themselves, and the audiences, to openly experience the scenes. The acceptability of the inciting incident heavily depends upon audiences' suspension of disbelief. Once they accept the trigger point, the rest falls comfortably in place. But overdoing it in a place or two reflects anxiety and doubt. This is an acceptable flaw because they were dealing with a new unknown. There was no artistic experience to rely on and they must've had to take chances. This one does not pay and it's all right.
C U Soon poses more questions. An anxious mind like mine asks, "Is this the future of cinema?" A cynical mind like mine asks, "Is this even a movie?" An emotional self answers, "It feels like it."