Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ഷട്ടർ (Shutter) (2012)

Director: Joy Mathew
Writer:    Joy Mathew
Cast:       Lal, Vinay Forrt, Sreenivasan, Sajitha Madathil
Language: Malayalam

The film portrays unexpected incidents happening in two days and a night in the city of Kozhikode. The story centers around the mess created by three mean - a Gulf Malayali, an auto driver and a film director. As can be seen from the poster above, it involves a prostitute as well and the title of the film is not derived from the camera mechanism, but from a room whose shutter is down and locked.

I went into the film without knowing anything about the story and was expecting a murder mystery or something like that. In a way that helped because the expectation of a murder and things going out of hand helps in enjoying the film even more as it turns out to be more of a satirical-thriller in the mould of Alphonse Putharen's 'Neram'. He was rumored to direct a Hindi remake of the film after 'Neram', but the project fell through. Lal plays the role of the Muslim Gulf Malayali, who is perturbed by the manners of his teenage daughter and decides to arrange for her engagement. Usually, Muslims have their 'Mundu' tied towards the left and are teetotalers but he is just the opposite. His drinking buddies are some of his 'friends' from the neighborhood and they are portrayed as the leeching kind which is very typical for NRIs in Kerala. They are there for the drinks and in exchange they will flatter the guy during the drinking session while behind his back they will be gossiping about him. Their drinking session takes place in the empty shop room that the protagonist owns just in front of his house. Vinay Forrt plays the role of his trusted Auto-rickshaw driver who also masquerades as the procurer of alcohol, a common phenomena in Kerala. The NRI gets locked up inside his shop-room with a prostitute and the film follows whether he can escape from it without harming his reputation in town. It works very well as a satire on typical middle class hypocrisies and false moralities in Kerala. 

Overall the film is a very good watch and the director achieves a fine balance between it being a thriller and satire. Things could have easily gone sideways if he chose to end it with violence and some shit moral message but he opts to go in a different direction. What really helps is the casting of Lal, who is now kind of type-cast playing negative rough roles and in the initial parts of the film his character is given that treatment. So we kind of expect a doomed violence that never quite happens in the film. Vinay Forrt is also excellent in his role as the auto driver and is the character through which every other ones connect. Sreenivasan plays a typical 'Sreenivasan' role from recent times. Sajitha Madathil, who made her name as a theater artist, plays the role of the prostitute and this is her second film.

Some minor points to complain about would be a totally unnecessary connection between the film director character and the prostitute which happens during the final scene of  the film. It is as if Malayalam films should have a cheap twist towards the end and I really get pissed off when I see that. I just feel it is just disingenuous without adding anything to the film since the probability of all the characters having multiple connections between them is just too convoluted. Another minor quibble could be that, there was no need for that conversation between the NRI guy and his daughter towards the end which comes across as a very  unsubtle social message. It was quite obvious from the get-go regarding who will open the door after the phone-call mistake. He could have just chose to convey it in an ambiguous manner with some knowing looks between the characters and by having the NRI dude just change his decision on his daughter's future. And the last criticism would be there are these imagined scenes which works as twists, like him going back to the house to face hostilities, and I just think it is another one of these cheap tricks. But all that said, it is a very good watch. It was remade into Marathi by V.K. Prakash recently and is also getting made in Tamil. I don't think a Hindi remake by Alphonse Puthran would have worked very well because I imagine it to be very similar in tone to 'Ek Chalis Ki Last Local' and what made the film work very well for me in Malayalam was the casting of Lal and the threat of violence that he offers. Shutter was Joy Mathew's directorial debut and his love for Kozhikode is apparent in the film, even though it is a bit jarring sometimes, especially the love-in for autowallahs.

Rating: 3.5/5