Director: Ahammed Khabeer
Cast: Arjun Ashokan, Joju George, Indrans, Nikhila Vimal, Shruti Ramachandran
Ahammed Khabeer’s Madhuram stars Joju George, Indrans, Shruti Ramachandran, Nikhila Vimal and Arjun Ashokan. The film is about people who are waiting in the common room of a government hospital, as one or more of their loved ones are inside the ward.
These guys are outside, waiting. They have mattresses spread out and have laid clothes out to dry on the terrace. They also watch serials and movies on TV. In short, they have made this common room, this ward, their own. They have made it into a kind of home, except that there is a roof of sadness. Because someone is inside the wards that they cannot easily go to, unless they stand in line.
And maybe they get five minutes or so to speak with them, because these people are seriously ill and they are undergoing treatment. They really have to wait in that room, while their loved ones are undergoing treatment inside the hospital’s ward.
They become a sort of makeshift family and three couples get singled out. One is Indrans and his wife Sulekha, who proudly declares they’ve been married for 40 years. The second one is the excellent relationship between Joju George and Shruti Ramachandran and this clearly has tons of chemistry. And the third one is the newly married husband and wife played by Arjun Ashokan and Nikhila Vimal.
You have each one from a particular generation. Indrans and his wife, proudly married for 40 years, as he keeps declaring. JoJu George and Shruti Ramchandran, and then Arjun Ashokan and Nikhila Vimal. Actually, there may be even a fourth generation. There is this new boy, Teju, who has come into this common room because his father is undergoing treatment. He falls or at least has a crush on a girl on the other side of the room.
Now there are two ways to make such a film. Families are complicated things. In the sense that you may have a loved one in the room, but maybe you’ve also had fights and disagreements with them. So you feel a little conflicted about a lot of these things. But this is not that kind of movie. In that sense, this is not a dysfunctional movie. This is about people who just unconditionally love whoever is being treated. The madhuram of the title transcends into the movie because the movie is sweet and that is its flavour.
So this is not a sad film at all. Through the people who are waiting, we get a sense of what life is and what love is. We get the story of an upcoming divorce, an inter-community marriage and that of a man to whom his wife has become as natural and as inevitable as breathing.
I don’t have to tell you that Indrans is terrific because he’s been on a roll recently. And here, he makes us feel his wife’s absence so movingly, unsentimentally and so perfectly again. Another movie could have easily sentimentalized this track, because after all, you have an oldish man, you have his wife, they could be talking about a lot of things and you could be breaking down into tears all the time. None of that happens here. The mood is kept at a very even level.
There is a lot of humour, chemistry and charm in the track between Joju George and Shruti Ramachandran who fit together like a glove. I mean, it’s the burly guy, the incredible and fantastic actor Joju George and Shruti, I haven’t frankly seen her in any film. And somehow they just gel together and their chemistry is so wonderful.
Imagine a film about death that is filled with the pleasures of life, that is colour, good food, fantastic smells and budding love. That is the kind of film that writers have given us. The writers are Ashiq Aimar and Fahim Safar. Their gentle observations, scenes and dialogues are complemented beautifully by Govind Vasantha’s gentle score.
Only the youngest generation story seems a little far fetched and hurried. That is the Arjun Ashokan and Nikhila Vimal’s track. I never got a sense of the exact nature of the quarrel between them. Like you know what it is, but for them to be there without talking to each other, and to always have this frictional relationship – it just seemed a little bit overdone. Even when it comes to the reconciliation, it’s a little hurried and I wish they’d done it in a different way.
But by then I had fallen in love with this movie that is as sweet as its title. Getting that sweetness right without getting too sugary and too sentimental. That may be a secret of cooking, but that’s also a secret of this movie’s success.