Director: Mahesh Narayanan
Having watched c u soon, you understand where he's coming from because the format is something you quickly adapt to; it recedes into the background. In just a few minutes, you forget that you're voyeuristically peeping into the private digital space of two or more people and you're immersed in their worlds.
Which means that it's a very easy-to-access film even if you haven't seen similar films such as Unfriended or Searching. A lot of that is because of the source material. It's about two people meeting on Tinder and how that develops into something more before it comes to an abrupt end. But even when you're watching the film assuming that it's a simple love story, there's always an ominous feeling that demands you give it your complete attention.
Seen through the eyes, or rather, the screens of Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) and later his cousin Kevin (Fahadh Faasil), you witness the piecing together of a person like Anu (Darshana Rajendran) based on a series of emotions…just that these emotions are built on a bedrock of biases and an overall male judgmental mindset. What we think of Anu is based initially on what Jimmy tells us about her and eventually what information Kevin gathers by destroying anything in the form of her privacy.
So, it's not just important for Jimmy to fall in love with Anu, it's also important for him to get Kevin, a hacker, involved to do a "background check" on her and her history. It also doesn't help that even Jimmy's mother (Maala Parvathy) nonchalantly demands of Kevin that he goes ahead with this background check, paying no heed to what this means to Anu. Which means that when our own understanding of Anu goes through a series of filters, we realise how we too are quick to judge people based on what little we see of them online.
What this presents us with is a fascinating study of how we've come to perceive people in the age of social media. How well do we really know a person we meet online and, more importantly, what really is the difference between a person's carefully curated online persona versus honest real-life personality? These are the questions the film puts forth, but without the simplistic answer we find in other films that usually ends with….. "all of social media is evil". In short, c u soon isn't a cautionary tale about the big bad world of social media.
The performances are solid, especially Darshana's. She nudges us into investing heavily in Anu even when we sense a secret she's hiding. Roshan and Fahadh too are excellent in complex roles as two men so blinded by male privilege that they've lost their ability to see women for who they are. With Kevin, we also see an egoistic man-child who struggles to come to terms with the fact that he has to work beneath a woman in the modern-day hierarchical setup.
But eventually, it's Mahesh Narayanan the director-editor who holds it all together. Shot during the pandemic, with a minimal cast and crew, you don't once notice the rough edges you might usually see in an Indian film that's trying to show it's set abroad. Compare this to the other films that released during the Onam break and you realise how cinema is seldom about the budget, the restrictions or logistics. It's not just necessity that is the mother of invention; perhaps, the creative itch can do just fine too.
The few places you disagree with the film include parts in the beginning when you start doubting how quickly Anu and Jimmy get together. Without revealing too much, Anu's initial plan seems too far-fetched and convoluted for the situation one feels she's in. But even with these loose ends, c u soon never feels like a self-indulgent film made by people with a lot of time on their hands. It feels a bit like the future of Malayalam cinema, and we're just glad we got to 'see it soon'.