Have you ever spent a day or at least an hour thinking or fantasising about literary characters? What would be their lives now? Or what would have happened to them post the story ends? Not every film could make you ponder over it’s characters and their grief. But Padmarajan is someone who leaves unanswered questions, ambiguous endings that are devastating to ponder over.
The writer who was an inevitable part of the average millennial cinema aficionado. Now, how do you pen a fanboy love-letter to someone who’s relentlessly celebrated as a pop-culture icon, through his characters? There have been countless homages to Padmarajan from Malayalam Cinema. The one I could recall in a flash of seconds is VK Prakash’s Beautiful where Jomon-T-John imbues vitals of the iconic scene where Mother Superior (Jayakrishnan) writes to Clara. These romantic instances have often been cited for crowd-pleasing in innumerable movies. But are they genuine homages or is it just for the sake of narrative furnishing? There’s also examples from the recent scenario where references get transcended as the primal of a film’s narrative. Kannum Kannum Kollayadithal, Oh My Kadavule and the recent Malayalam film Shylock are examples, as the kind of fluffy pop-corn entertainers camouflaged as homages.
Now, this is where Sumesh Lal’s Humans of Someone stands out. As it isn’t merely cooked up with blatant nods and these narrative clutches are piercingly used for an individual story-telling of substance. The writer Nitin Nath forms a ‘narrative of illusions’. A screenwriter’s quest into the genuinity of his work, a psychological repatriation left ambiguous and a relationship backstory getting stranded between the illusions and fantasies of our central character (played by the writer himself). Though the editing is perplexing for most parts with a jarring non-linear illusionary tone, it partly succeeds in making an effective conclusion by the climax, a part suspense too. But again, the tail end is open and vague. Is it the characters of the protagonist’s screenplay making a phantasm? Or is he trying to write something based on his relationship with Sarah (Madonna Sebastian appearing in illusions). However, the writing creates an illusion based upon the real characters (The Doctors, patients, Sarah) shifting into the realm of a Padmarajan’s literary universe.
Inside the illusions, the Doctors get substituted as Major Uncle from Deshadanakili Karayarilla and Alice from Koodevide. The near bed patients appear to be Elizabeth Paulokkaran (Namukku Parkkan Munthirithoppukal), Rishi (Thoovanathumbikal) and Maya (Innale) and the security is the guide in Season. But these aren’t just substitutes, but also indices for further referentials. We get crossovers like Rishi pimping Elizabeth. Jeevan has a nephew who continues to inherit his legacy at Kovalam Beach. Alice gets an afterlife and she talks about Thomas and Ravi, these are introspections to characters. What if Maya remembers Narendran now? How did Elizabeth become a prostitute? Where is Sofia now? There happens to be these profound interpretations by a hardcore fanatic. And then there are exemplary references, the Grandmother is out of Thinkalazhcha Nalla divasam and the GrandFather from Moonnam Pakkam. Actress Sobha in addition, is given a melancholic homage as the Mother figure, throw back to Shalini Ente Koottukari (written by Padmarajan).
What does death mean in cinema? This is a profound topic. I’ve recently watched this kannada film called Dia, which does too much injustice to its story-telling aesthetics and artistic morality. I thought of Innale when I watched that film. Look how a similar emotional trajectory is given a ‘beautifully poignant’ treatment, it’s heartbreaking. But it isn’t barbaric. Just see the two different ranges of trauma being inhibited by both the women characters. The difference is the stamp of a true-blue connoisseur of ‘Art’. It’s humane writing. The way Padmarajan writes grief is unparalleled. In Humans of Someone, there’s this self-extrapolation by an aspiring screenwriter, how to not manipulate your characters? Take Deshadanakili Karayarilla, how does the suicide make sense? Is it after all just a case of teenage rebellion? The writer makes his own remarks, It is not the Death that I relate to, it is the life they choose not to lead! These tiny titbid exploration has to be the standard for homages.
Humans of someone is an ‘eclectic’ piece of a fan-boy love letter that introspects and instigates through new perspectives devoid of the usual ways to give a fanboy ode, it also sprinkles melancholy of the yesteryears. Literal Tears shed my eyes, when Govind Vasantha’s scores (the bits of Johnson from Thoovanathumbikal and Namukku Parkkan Munthithoppikal used) accompanied the shot of Solomon’s vineyards. And the recreation of the iconic letter writing scene was melancholic ecstasy. This is a true-blue tribute to Malayalam Cinema’s timeless story-teller, done right.