Erida Samyuktha Menon
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Director: VK Prakash
Writer: YV Rajesh
Cast: Samyuktha Menon, Nassar, Kishore Kumar
Language: Malayalam

Spoilers Ahead…

Director VK Prakash’s Erida is stylized to appear like a chic thriller. Male characters wear expensive suits, hang out in upscale gambling dens and pepper conversations with awkward English phrases while a remix of Beethoven’s fifth symphony backgrounds their poker games. And the only female character, Anu (Samyuktha Menon) stays in a posh and well-appointed bungalow throughout the film. But beneath a sophisticated surface, Erida is a familiar tale of revenge narrated without any suspense: Anu, still in her twenties, is married to Shankar Ganesh (Nassar) who keeps her practically imprisoned in a lonely bungalow; he’s over sixty and insecure about her. So, if Anu is to really free herself from Shankar, she not only needs to loot the safe in their home, she also needs him dead. Several ‘twists’ are added to this familiar thriller trope, but every twist in Erida is less convincing than the last. They’re so obvious that the twists spoil the film’s viewing far more than disclosing them in a review could.

The first twist in the film is that Shankar is actually a bad guy. Initially, we are introduced to a seemingly well-adjusted Anu and Shankar. But out of nowhere, we get a backstory about how Anu is with him only because her family couldn’t pay off their debts to him. We’re given an information dump about his impotence and how he treats Anu merely as an acquisition (or ‘a lucky charm’ as he puts it). Erida begins with an amoral tone but very quickly gets into questions of moral right and wrong. Unlike, say, Bhramam, where a young wife is married to a much older man, Erida doesn’t allow its characters to get on with scheming against each other. Instead it tries too hard – and too predictably – to justify Anu’s morality.

While a bit of backstory does indeed make Anu’s motivation for murder clearer, this information isn’t presented organically. It’s the kind of twist that’s unsatisfying because a fact (Shankar is a bad guy) was hidden from us, simply to be revealed at a more convenient point with no intelligent surprise. 

We get an even weaker twist when Anu meets Mahi Varma (Kishore), a police officer who knocks on her door when she’s alone. Though he comes looking for Shankar, he ends up spending the evening with her. We get some exposition through Mahi’s dialogues about how cops are frustrated in their jobs and why you can’t really blame them for acting violently sometimes. Briefly, you’re led to believe that this is an unhinged cop who might attack Anu. But this half-twist is abandoned for a new one. 

Mahi and Anu end up colluding, they plan to break the safe together and run away with the money. But the twists haven’t ended: We get an information dump near the end that reveals that there’s a secret between Anu and Shankar, Anu isn’t as naive as she looks, and Mahi was never really a cop. But these aren’t really twists — it’s basically presenting a certain fact to the viewer before arbitrarily telling her that it was all a lie. There’s no gradual foreshadowing: For example, early on there’s no hint that Mahi might not be a cop. If a few discreet clues had been left for the viewer, his turn from a cop to a criminal might not have felt as abrupt. The film is rife with several such twists that feel uninspired.

We watch Erida passively waiting for the next big reveal, knowing that it can be nothing more than a mildly interesting plot variation built up to look like a serious twist. At the end, Anu gives a literal exposition about the film’s title: Erida is the name of the Greek Goddess of Strife, and just like that goddess, Anu too must keep on going. But this explanation for the title is only as convincing as the twists in Erida.

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