This was a so-so movie. Unless I am missing some deeper level. But I am pretty sure it just made its way onto my list because of Namitha Pramod, no deeper reason. It’s a fine movie, with a couple of original ideas, but that’s kind of it.
The biggest original idea is how it approaches infidelity. Not as a momentary weakness, but also not as inescapable fate, rather a combination of the two. And also largely circumstantial.
It’s not the deepest look at infidelity, or the most intriguing. And the characters aren’t super well-rounded. And the performances are fine, but nothing special. There are some clever little filming touches with a hint of magical realism, but still nothing to write home about. Really, it’s mostly the “hook” of the film, the one-sentence plot description, that sells it. Which I can’t get into yet, because I’m not in the SPOILER section yet!
Let’s see, what else? Another excellent performance from Namitha Pramod. She has a certain level of maturity and self-containment that lets her play way way older than she actually is, and the director takes advantage of it again here. She is definitely a stand out.
Dileep is the hero, and normally he would be way too old to play opposite Namitha. But really, he is the right age for this particular part. He is supposed to be noticeably too old for her in this case. And he has a great way of handling the physical comedy in this role, and conveying a kind of charming personality that might intrigue a younger woman and keep his friends loyal and his wife devoted.
The wife was Anusree, and hey! I just saw her in Maheshinte Prathikaaram! She was also playing a little older in character than in real life. And she pulled it off, with the help of some matronly fashion and hair and make-up. She still looked like a young-ish wife (which was a little bit part of her character), but she was believable as a wife, it didn’t feel like a teenager playing dress-up.
I did like that we spent almost equal time with the wife as with the husband. We didn’t get that much of a sense of her personality or interests beyond “wife”, but within that restricted area, we did get to see her talking with friends and family members, interacting with her son, and otherwise living her life apart from Dileep.
It’s that “apartness” that I find so interesting, when compared with the other statements on infidelity. Which means, time for SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
We open on a marriage already in trouble. Not big trouble, but little slowly sliding trouble. Big trouble would be easier to address, more obvious. But in this case, Dileep is transferred to a new city, Anusree can’t get a transfer from her job, and they are both getting increasingly comfortable with the separation, without really acknowledging it. Dileep has his routine, going out at night, sitting around and getting drunk with his friends, and then stumbling home and trying to remember to call his wife.
Anusree is seemingly less comfortable than Dileep, she is the one pushing for them to move and live together again. But she also has her routine, settled in living with her brother, sending their son off to spend time with his uncle when his father isn’t available. They are both holding out hope for the family vacation that is supposed to fix everything, to let the son spend time with his father, the couple re-connect, make everything fine.
Now, see, what’s interesting is if all that stuff folds into the vacation they eventually go on and what happens on it. There’s a lot riding on this vacation, even more after it has to be rescheduled and rearranged so it is just a smaller family group, not the larger group they were initially traveling with. And all of that is in the background when they go to Vaitheeswaran Koil, the temple in Tamil Nadu that is famous for having pre-written horoscopes for everyone for all time.
Now, separate from everything else in this movie, I am fascinated by getting a glimpse of how these leaves work! The whole family troupes in and identifies Dileep as the one to get his horoscope read. And they astrologer asks his birthday and then starts sorting through the leaves asking questions like “was your mother’s name —? Is your wife —?” The first question, he is wrong the first few times, but then gets it right. The second question, it is faster, by the third and fourth they are just cruising along and he is getting everything right. And each time he gets something wrong, he sets aside a little leaf thing and moves on to the next one until he finds the right combination.
And then, with everything in order, he gives the past life of Dileep. Which is really interesting! Mostly because it’s treated as kind of black comedy instead of the usual “ooo, past life!” way these things are treated. Dileep was a writer in olden times in the court of a king (who is really really dark. I am guessing I am missing some specific and not so great ethnic stereotype here with the king). The king brings in a new court dancer, Namitha. Dileep and Namitha fall in love (of course), and in revenge the king sends Dileep off to war, where he dies. And the astrologer ends by warning that there is danger in their marriage, and Dileep is fated to fall in love again with the same dancer. Everyone is a little thrown by this announcement.
And then the movie goes on, Dileep goes back to his life alone in the city with his office job and writing reviews of dance shows in the evening, and drinking with his friends. And one day at work, in walks the dancer from the horoscope! Or, is it?
It didn’t occur to me until way too far into this movie, but how would Dileep “recognize” the dancer from the horoscope? We, in the audience, saw a vision of the past, but Dileep was just getting it read out in dry text. And with the way it is all filmed, sort of tongue in cheek, it is possible to read this whole thing as a lesson on how we make our own fate. Or, we use fate as an excuse for what we want anyway. Dileep is drifting from his wife and family, a beautiful young woman comes into his office, and suddenly he sees her as the dancer from the horoscope he heard. And the vision of himself from the past keeps appearing in the edge of his vision, cheering him on as he spends more time with this cheerful happy young woman.
I do like that Namitha never feels like just a sex object. She is a calm and competent young woman. She enjoys spending time with Dileep because they have things in common, and maybe a little bit because he has the power to help her out with the complaint that was filed against her at his office. I never got the vibe that she was trying to seduce him or anything. She was just taking things as they came.
It’s poor Anusree who ends up having all the misery. After the long slow slide into marital trouble, suddenly all the surface problems are fixed with a bang when Anusree’s transfer comes through, she finds them a house, and suddenly regular family life is back, just when Dileep was happily sliding into infidelity and telling himself it wasn’t his fault because of the horoscope or the job issues or whatever else.
But now they are living together again, and there are no more excuses, and it is clear that the marriage is just plain having problems. Dileep would rather stay out with his friends then spend time with his wife and son. Anusree is working hard to turn it into a good marriage but she is all alone in it. And Namitha seems so effortless and undemanding in contrast.
The problem in their marriage is supposed to be that they can’t live in the same city. And then it’s supposed that he is “fated” to fall in love with another woman. But the real problem is inside of the marriage, not outside. It’s about Dileep making a decision to go home and spend time with his wife and son.