Director: Anand Paga
Cast: Gibu George, Devika Sivan, Jayaram Nair
Grahanam, the latest Malayalam release on Neestream, has a lot of the same issues you find with the first film of an enthusiastic, but untrained group of filmmakers. The dialogues are rudimentary, the performances follow set patterns imitating seasoned actors and there’s generally an unhealthy reliance on twists, especially if it’s a thriller.
In Grahanam, set mostly in Singapore, we follow the honeymoon-like first days of an NRI couple who have to move there for work. Roy (Gibu George) and Tina (Devika Sivan) get all the cliches you see in a romantic montage including long walks in the park, bike rides in the rain and trips to shiny shopping malls, all signifying an overwhelming amount of mirth. So when Roy announces that he’s the happiest man in the world, you can be pretty sure that his happiness is not going to last too long.
Told in a confusing non-linear pattern, we go back and forth between present day and the happy past. The narration becomes even more complicated when the timeline of the present day is further pushed back to create a second layer of tension. And now what if I were to add that we get not one, but two flashbacks within this complex screenplay structure to create the effect of having the rug pulled from right under us. The result is both tiring and frustrating. The mindgame the film wants to play works only until the audience feels the narrator is worth relying on. By the end of it, you get the sense that the film could throw another twist at you using another flashback if it had more runtime.
The issue really isn’t with the concepts, but it’s just how they have been used. The film talks about a complex supernatural phenomenon that occurs during a lunar eclipse but I still haven’t figured out where that fits in (on a story level) or if it’s simply meant to be an elaborate red herring. Even the concept of Capgras Syndrome is used and explained, but its screentime doesn’t eventually justify the effect it has on the outcome.
The making itself is basic with little attention being paid to the staging or performances. It struggles to create atmosphere for such a thriller and when it tries, it feels overblown and repetitive. With an interesting concept in there somewhere, you feel the film sacrifices emotions for shock value. The chemistry between the leads is sufficient, but not enough for us to stay with them through the turbulence. And there’s just too many questions the film leaves you with at each stage. At present, the film feels like the cinematic version of a first draft. The effort comes through in some scenes but it has too many things to get right to be called a serious attempt.