Veyil Is A Messy, But Moving Drama On Brothers/Brotherhood, Film Companion

Director: Sarath

Cast: Shane Nigam, Shine Tom Chacko

It’s important to keep reminding oneself through Veyil that we are watching a broken man’s memories play out. Unlike the clean exposition and linearity you expect from a film told through flashbacks, in Veyil these memories are often hazy, as though the narrator is finding it hard to recollect the sequence of events that led him to the present. Or is it his reluctance in reliving these painful chapters that’s creating the effect of a film that takes place in the subconscious, somewhere between reality and dream? 

This dream-quality makes Veyil both a difficult and a special film to experience. It becomes difficult because it demands that you be patient through the many events that make up three to four years of Siddus’ (Shane Nigam) early adult life. From first love to heartbreak, a first job to its occupational hazards, significant life events are first shown to us, even before we fully understand the context. So when Siddu beats up a man in a movie theatre, we don’t yet know who he is and why he’s doing this. Even earlier, when important names are used in everyday conversation (“I saw Nimmi. She’s become fat now”), we’re not told who they are or what place they take in Siddu’s life. This creates many doubts, leaving us with the feeling of watching a set of fractured scenes rather than a nostalgic trip down memory lane. 

This pattern also demands that you remain fully with Siddu, because a small piece of information may take more than an hour to get its context and for us to understand its significance. While it does get a tad frustrating, this style of writing adds a layer of melancholy and an honesty to the retelling of what’s essentially a balance-sheet of good deeds versus regrets. Even in portions that have to do with matters of the heart, it seldom relies on overt romanticising to paint a pretty picture. It is what it is and because Siddu has become a lot older now, he’s able to relive even these memories with the kind of cold distance you see in a person who has been through a lot in life. 

All of this contributes to make Veyil special because it essentially only wants to be one thing — a story of brotherhood. Even the time spent in establishing the love story is for it to fit into this larger goal, where sacrifices have become routine. And this isn’t just limited to one set of brothers. On the opposite end is Jomy (Shine Tom Chacko) and Baby (James Elia) but even here, it’s the older brother’s life that goes on to dominate their sibling’s.

For Siddu, these sacrifices were never a matter of choice. It was more like life’s earliest lesson where all resources, including parental care and time, had to be rationed towards his unwell brother. As for Jomy, these sacrifices have now become a way of life where even a family trip to a mall results in insults that question his masculinity. In their respective situations— with Siddu’s being a result of fate and Jomy’s being a result of fortune—we see moments of a third brotherhood developing between both of them where only they understand each other. 

Unlike a bad breakup or a broken friendship, the after-effects of such complex family equations remain inescapable no matter how many years pass by. And when your house, your bed, others members of the family and even the face in the mirror sets off a flood of emotions, Veyil too develops into a tragic coming of age story where there are no miraculous escape from reality or a triumphant return to bliss. 

Written and directed by Sarath, who begins his movie with Woody Allen’s quote, “If my films make one more person miserable, I’ll feel I have done my job,” manages to achieve just this with his bittersweet first film. Helped by Pradeep Kumar’s unusual score which does even attempt to comfort the viewer and great performances all around (especially Sreerekha as Siddu’s mother), Veyil remains a poignant and painful journey about growing up and growing apart.

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