Emcee Thomas' Vikrithi (mischief) opens with a fascinating character introduction scene. We're in a bus and the driver changes the song to 'Koothambalathil Vacho' from Appu as the camera moves along the bus to stop at Eldho (Suraj Venjaramoodu). He's singing along perfectly, but we can't hear a word. The person sitting next to him is mildly amused. He is new to the city and uses this opportunity to ask Eldho where he must get down to reach his destination. That's when we learn that Eldho is both hard-of-hearing and speech. Nevertheless, he pulls out a notepad from his pocket and writes down clear instructions for this outsider to follow.
The other main character in the film, Sameer (Soubin Shahir), gets a very different kind of introduction. This scene too is about communication, but of a very different kind. Sameer is waiting for his friend to pick him up from the airport, and in this time he clicks a selfie with friends he's made on the flight. When his friend arrives, the first thing Sameer asks him is if there are any issues between them. The friend asks him why he feels so and he says, "because you're not liking my posts on Facebook." A scene later, he's WhatsApping a group of friends back in Sharjah, and just before he finally gets home, he chooses to film his surprise arrival on Facebook Live for all his friends to see. If Eldho struggles to communicate, Sameer suffers from a need to communicate everything.
It is this trait that leads Sameer to click a picture of Eldho when he's sleeping on the Kochi Metro. Instead of leaving him alone, Sameer uses the opportunity to share this picture and turn it into a meme making Eldho a drunkard. This goes viral and ruins Eldho's life; in reality, Eldho was just tired after spending two nights at the hospital taking care of his daughter. The aftereffect of this 'mischief' is manifold, so much more than Sameer could have imagined. From what Sameer must have thought would be a harmless joke, the whole thing snowballs into a crime that could destroy his own life.
What works for Vikrithi is how it never makes an antagonist of Sameer. He may have committed a crime, hurting a person very badly, but the film's non-judgmental approach makes it easy for us to relate to Sameer, because we too may have played a part in sharing something of a similar nature online. Soubin's performance in the scenes that express his guilt, especially during his marriage, is stellar. There's celebration all around as Sameer finally gets married to his childhood crush, but there's a blankness he brings to his eyes that shows both his guilt and the stress he's going through.
At times, one wishes the makers knew how good a film they were actually making. The pacing is all over the place and scenes in the second half, when the film really comes into its own, seem incomparable to some of the goofy comedic stretches of the first half. Scenes that needed delicate handling, like the one where Eldho buys his son a pair of football boots, feel rushed when other scenes take far too long to get to the point. I can't understand if this is due to the presence of an actor such as Soubin, but this is a film that really needed to be treated with a lot more seriousness and sensitivity.
Despite its interesting plot, based on real-life incident, it is the performances that save this film. I now realise that both Soubin and Suraj Venjaramoodu have direct connections to my tear-ducts; the film's ending is heartbreakingly beautiful. The film has many scenes that come close to greatness but fall one step short. It's the same with the film as well. It could so easily have been a great film.