Writer: Suneesh Varanad (script)
Cast: Jayasurya, Namitha Pramod, Jaffer Idukki
After two consecutive box-office debacles and several assaults on audience sensibilities, actor-director Nadirsha is back, with Eesho, a thriller headlined by Jayasurya and Jaffar Idukki. This time, he is a careful man. He sidesteps the tendency to pepper the narrative with his kind of humour﹣loud, obnoxious and outdated ﹣and dives straight into the main story, about the grief and revenge of good men.
The film revolves around Pillai (Jaffar Idukki), a lowly ATM security guard and the father of two young girls who risks his life to appear as the prime witness in a rape and murder case of a teenager. Goons hired by the accused in the case, a powerful businessman (Suresh Krishna), are lurking around Pillai to finish him off. On the previous night of his appearance in the court, a stranger (Jayasurya) comes to the ATM booth. Here, the narrative runs into an old riddle ﹣Is this man a villain or a hero?
In all fairness, Eesho is neatly shot and has a decent background track that does not overwhelm the narrative but evokes a sense of foreboding. And although it is not difficult to guess the real identity of the stranger who chatters about everything but the kitchen sink, the two actors, Jayasurya and Jaffar Idukki, turn the scenes pleasurable to a large extent. However, Eesho is neither thoughtfully written nor intelligently structured to keep the viewer on edge throughout its running time or move them to reflect on sexual crimes and how society treats the survivors.
Moreover, the veil of social consciousness the film wears is too thin. On the outside, Eesho might seem like an angry movie with a heart bleeding for the victims of sexual violence and their grieving families. But the film's true nature comes through how Nadirsha frames and builds its women.
The film opens with a sequence that resembles an old-school amateur theatre play, a cheerful song followed by a tragedy. The death of innocence. After a song sequence that looks at a little girl as a guileless butterfly, Nadirsha’s camera starts working for the paedophile, becoming his eye, scanning her body from feet to head, informing the viewer that she is not just a little girl. Eesho, named after a religious figure, has its male hero-centric narrative built on the female body and the question of shame associated with it.
It should not surprise anyone that Eesho is phallocentric. Amar Akbar Anthony (2015), Nadirsha’s multi-starrer debut feature film, a major box-office success of the year, proceeds through the exploits of three unemployable young men. After several scenes and a song that mocks and accuses young women of gold-digging and transgressing, the film, in its final 15 minutes, transforms into a rape-revenge drama reminiscent of several popular movies, including Omar Lulu's exploitative Oru Adaar Love (2019).
Nadirsha's films despise and objectify women, but they love the image of the little girl, pure and joyous. In Amar Akbar Anthony, the child is murdered at the end to redeem the three wayward men at the centre of the film. The women in Eesho are dead or canon fodder, except for Namita Pramod's honest and brave lawyer, a staple empowered figure exclusively defined by her professional attire. Women suffer and die so that there will be male heroes and images of male rage and camaraderie.
But for those who might find the visual treatment appalling, Nadirsha provides an alternative. Eesho is overly dialogue-centric, a film that might as well have been a radio drama that does not ask the viewers to train their eyes on the screen. The expository dialogues reduce the plot into a simplistic sequence of events, leaving little for the viewer's imagination or judgement. The stranger, for no reason, launches into a sermon about the East Pakistan refugee crisis and at one point, threatens Pillai using a gun. There is no significant and organic elevation of drama; one never feels that the narrative is building towards something unforeseen and exciting. On the side, a set of supporting characters who get neither a memorable name nor a powerful line hang around.
Eesho is a definite improvement over Nadirsha's last film, the abhorrent Keshu Ee Veedinte Nadhan, but its manufactured social consciousness and shameless pandering to the social media popularity of vigilantism make it yet another forgettable addition to his filmography.