North 24 Kaatham: I Still Don’t Get Fahadh Faasil, But I Still Liked It!

So, this was an interesting movie!  Almost too subtle for me to follow.  Or maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention (I was trying to finish it while getting ready for work).

I don’t usually bother with a summary of the plot in these reviews, because I would always rather discuss interesting things I noticed as I go along and let the plot come up naturally.  Plus, I am assuming that if you are bothering to read this, you have already seen the movie.  Or will see it soon.  However!  In this case, I got so confused following it, that I want to start by laying (lying?) out everything that happened.  And if you’ve seen it and I missed something important, let me know!

Our hero is a software engineer who lives with his parents and younger brother (a popular DJ).  He has OCD and possibly also Aspergers.  I don’t think a diagnosis was ever mentioned specifically, but we do see him visiting a psychiatrist and talking about how he is doing, so he is not supposed to be just “quirky.”  However, besides his mental health issues, he also seems like just a fairly difficult person to deal with, not willing to make an effort to make life easier for his family, and especially not for his co-workers.  His co-workers plan to get rid of him by arranging for him to be sent to a conference out of town, knowing that he hates to travel.  He surprises them all by agreeing and leaving home for the first time in who knows how long to travel by train to the conference.  In the night, a fellow passenger gets a phone call and answers, sounding upset.  Another traveler, a young woman, jumps down to help and gets the old man off the train so he can go back to his home where his wife is ill.  And this is the part where I get confused, I think Fahaadh picks up the old man’s phone that he dropped in his hurry, gets off the train to give it back, but then gets distracted or shy or something and doesn’t hand it back in time?  I think?  He keeps pulling it out of his bag through out the rest of the film and looking at it.  Maybe his guilt over not handing it back is why he stays with them?

Anyway, all three of them are off the train and need to find another means of travel.  They go to the bus depot and travel on the same bus for a while, then have to get off because there is a statewide transit strike?  I think?  They catch a ride with a motorcycle group, but leave them after they miss-behave with the young woman.  Our hero is accidentally arrested when a group of men being chased by the police run into them, and to make up for it, the police drive them a little farther on to where a politician is giving a speech outside his house.  The young woman cleverly traps the politician while the reporters are there, asking if he is willing to help some citizens travel, and he gives them a ride a little farther.  They meet up with another traveler, from Dubai, trying to reach home to meet his newborn son.  The four of them catch a ride with a traveler (gypsy?  entertainer? something like that I think).  Finally, they reach the new father’s home and meet the baby.  They also meet a relative who has a boat and can take them a little farther towards the old man’s house.  All 3 of them are sick on the boat, and then there is just a short ride and a walk to the old man’s house.  As they travel through his village, he tells them about his whole life with his wife, memories related to what they are passing.  Finally, they get out and walk, and start getting caught up in a crowd of white clothed neighbors, as it becomes clear that his wife has died while they have been traveling.  Our hero stays for the funeral, but holds back a little, and then walks away.

The young woman runs after him, and they catch the bus together.  As they ride, they look at each other and remember the past few days.  And I guess they are in love now?  Or maybe they were in love all along?  Because they keep remembering moments when their eyes met and stuff, and I don’t think we saw those moments quite the same way before, so maybe it is the audience finally seeing that they were in love all along and they already knew it or something?  I’m so confused!  Anyway, then they say good-bye, he goes to his conference and gives an amazing presentation, and comes home and is much more relaxed and casual with his family and co-workers, actually considerate towards them.  And then he finally decides he is in love, and goes to the train station where the young woman told him she is every week, and they see each other across the rails, and their eyes meet, and the movie ends.

So, did I miss anything?  Did I mis-interpret something?  I liked the idea of this irritating difficult man being swept up in an impossible journey and coming home changed.  I like that we, the audience, get to spend plenty of time with him ahead of time so we can fully grasp just how irritating and difficult he is.  I really liked how we go from siding with his co-workers to siding against them.  At first, he is so rude and difficult, we understand why they would come up with a plan to get rid of him.  But after they are yelled at by the supervisor who points out that Fahadh’s brilliance is carrying the whole company, and we see how hard Fahadh is trying to live up to the responsibilities that this trip has forced on him, they start looking kind of small and petty.  I also liked how his family treated him.  Even his younger brother, there was tolerance and no pressure to change. Although they didn’t exactly delight in his habits, they also didn’t punish him for them.  And they were sincerely worried when his journey didn’t go as planned.

I also liked the young woman’s character, she was so cheerful and caring, confident without being pushy or mean, which is unusual for female characters.  However, I don’t think that there was quite enough time spent building a connection between her and the hero.  The love song at the end really felt like it came out of nowhere.  They had barely spoken before!

(Also, the actress was born in Russia.  How random is that?)

In general, I don’t think the hero got built up quite enough.  Unless I missed something while I was brushing my teeth.  But from what I saw, there was no big moment where he made a heroic gesture or seemed to get really involved in what was happening.  It started out strong, I like him just sort of following behind them, listening to their conversation, but it never quite moved on to him interacting and caring with them.  Or maybe that’s just how it felt to me.  I liked that he was paying attention and looking for her when they were riding the motorcycles.  But then later, when she was sick on the boat, he refused to pat her back, which would have been a great way to show how he feels differently about her after this time together.  And he doesn’t say anything to her before the say good-bye, or even sit next to her on the final bus trip.  So many missed opportunities!  Both by the character and the filmmaker.

The Old Man character was handled very well.  I liked how he was just a sweet nice man, a little confused by all the travel, enough that it was reasonable for the young people to feel they had to stay with him, but not so much that he lost any other personality.  And the way his whole history was sketched in with just a few reminiscences in his speech at the end was masterful, both from the writer and the actor.

I think they way it handled mental illness was all right.  I don’t know enough about the actual conditions it was representing to know if it was accurate.  But I did like that his family wasn’t trying to force him to change, even his “cool” younger brother just sort of accepted how he was and lived with it.  And I liked that the filmmakers drew a line between his compulsions that he just couldn’t help, and the very unpleasant way he treated others which he probably could help.  I find it completely believable that he would return home better able to understand how he makes other people feel, and why he should change that.  Not sure if I believe he would be able to get past his various phobias, but again, I don’t know enough about the actual conditions to be sure.

I very much enjoyed all the people they met on the way and all the ways they traveled.  It was a great way to see all of Kerala all at once, from the powerful politician down to the fisherman and the Dubai-returned worker.  Not to mention the beautiful landscapes, jungles, waterfalls, etc.  Especially because it is freezing and sleeting where I am right now, so it was very nice to escape to beautiful Kerala for a while.

Oh, and I thought the ending shot was really beautiful, with them just making eye contact across the tracks.  I only wish it felt like everything before that had really made sense of it.  Or maybe it did, and I just missed the vital 30 second part!

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7 thoughts on “North 24 Kaatham: I Still Don’t Get Fahadh Faasil, But I Still Liked It!

  1. I got the impression that Fahadh had attended the call while he was on the train and came to know about the old woman’s death.He felt reluctant to break the bad news when the old man was going on and on about his wife.I know, it just doesn’t gel with Fahadh’s personality- that he would care about a stranger like that. But that’s the impression that I got.Plus he’s intrigued by the pretty girl and wants to get to know her better but is too shy to ask her out.By the end of the movie, he knows that she’s not freaked out by his phobias but in fact helps him to get over some of them.IIRC she inspires him to lick his fingers while eating.Similar to Jab we met in the sense that she helps him to appreciate life more.

    I love his family.His parents seem like a Ki and Ka type.She’s a busy lawyer and he doesn’t seem to have a career of his own.His family seems to have accepted all his idiosyncrasies, but his mom does wish that IT companies would stay open on weekends too.They were worried enough when he turns up missing and even when he takes an extra idli after he returns.

    The statewide transit problem is peculiar to Kerala.Any of the half-a-dozen political parties can call out a ‘Hartal’ and the shops,schools,colleges etc would stay closed,there would be minimum staff elsewhere,there wouldn’t be any vehicles on the road(the strikers would break the glass) and good luck if you have an emergency and has to go to the hospital.A hartal can happen anytime(there’s usually one every month) and everybody takes it as a mini-holiday.It’s a hell of a habit to get rid of once we leave the state.

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    • Okay, that explanation of the phone makes more sense! I was thinking he just felt to awkward to give it back, and at the same time cared to much to just walk away. Which didn’t match with what we had seen before, it seemed like he would have been fine with just being a rude horrible jerk about it all. But if it was that he knew she was dead all along, that seems like it would be bad enough that even someone with his level of difficulty understanding others would grasp it. And it means that his motive wasn’t cowardice about admitting he had the phone, but caring about other’s feelings. So he did progress as a person! Yay!

      Okay, I thought his mother had the more high powered job! But I wasn’t sure if I was understanding it correctly or not, so I left it out of the review. Thanks for the confirmation! Certainly his family was relaxed about how things appeared and social norms, they didn’t seem to be worried about making either son into a “model son”. Fahadh was allowed to have his strange habits, and their other son was allowed to have his girlfriend in his bedroom and work as a DJ.

      Interesting about the strikes! Even the concept of a statewide fully enforced strike like that is unusual to me, I’m more used to thinking of strikes as related to a particular union, or even a particular business, not just every single everything being closed. I remember hearing about Bombay shutting down like that for Bal Thackaray’s funeral, but I didn’t realize it was so common in Kerala, and that it could be statewide, not just one city.

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  3. Oh, a hartal could be restricted to a particular district or it could be statewide.Political parties could call for one on the flimsiest of reasons(usually on a Monday or Friday so that everyone can buy a bottle of beer ahead and chill for the long weekend).

    Coming back to the movie, the heroine’s name is Narayani.How cool is that! It’s like naming your heroine Hortense or Aramenthia -not what you’d expect for a young girl to have.

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    • That’s cool about the name! I didn’t realize it was unusual (really, watching Indian films, anything that isn’t “Pooja” “Maya” “Anjali” or “Tina” is unusual). I did notice that she kept suggesting people call her by her nickname instead.

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