Hidden deep beneath the loud and inane surface of Raffi’s Voice Of Sathyanathan is a killer idea that could have become either a hilarious dark comedy or a darker human drama about redemption. One feels the need to underline the word ‘either’ to explain the film’s issues because it tries to be both. If you were to narrate the basic plot of the movie, you’d realise there’s merit in the story about an innocent man who gets stuck right in the middle of two very different kind of criminals. It is about an oddball character named Sathyanathan (Dileep) who gets himself into trouble because he cannot speak a single sentence without offending someone, forcing him into situations that are bigger than he is.
The biggest of these is how he hilariously gets himself added onto a list of criminals monitored by the CBI after an angry rant about the local panchayat president goes viral. The agencies believe Sathyanathan wants to kill THE president of India and they want him to be kept in police custody whenever the president visits Kerala. Imagine how funny it would be to see the loose-tongued Sathyanathan survive in a sub-jail full of serious criminals? Or just imagine what Raffi, in peak form, would have done with a comedic idea with so much potential.
But strangely, this is the point from when the jokes dry up. Instead of milking this odd situation for its comedy, Raffi chooses to sandwich two major sub-plots into Sathyanathan’s story without giving either the justice they deserve. Of these two, at least one could easily have been developed into a genuinely moving story about Sathyanathan helping an innocent inmate reunite with his family. But when the pitch of the film has already been established to be extremely loud and slapstick by then, you neither care for this sub-plot nor could it have accommodated such a serious detour.
An example of this is the way Sathyanathan interacts with a dangerous inmate called Balan (Joju George). Every hint of the film we watched until then point towards a chemistry that would remind us of Dileep’s own hilarious entanglements with Biju Menon in Marykkondoru Kunjaadu (2010). But because the film is hell bent on forcing the sentimentality of Balan’s life, it never takes a chance with anything remotely funny between these two. Their interactions, even when they are entirely serious, are so basic and artificial that you find yourself laughing out loud during an extremely intense flashback involving a bombing. And when this drama shifts to another story about a group of anarchists (!) plotting against the country, your indifference towards the movie turns into complete disengagement.
And because this is eventually a Dileep film we also get elaborate comedy sketches whenever the film tries to focus on any one of its two major strands. The result is a complex mess of half-decent ideas that never go anywhere. Neither funny nor emotional, Voice Of Sathyanathan compromises on its core strengths, ending up as another forgettable film that belongs in another decade.