In the times of a pandemic outdoors and an epidemic on prime time indoors, this anthology brings in two key missing elements: hope and candour. All the 5 shorts have a underlying emotion of hope and feel good (even the Karthik Subbaraj short in a Karthik Subbarj-esque way, but more on that later). Shot during the lockdown restrictions and set during Lockdown 1.0 (of 21 days) , the premise is as close to our current shared reality as it gets.
Sudha Kangaraj’s Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho is a refreshing take on the aging cliché ‘you are as old as you feel’. Seasoned actors Jayaram and Urvashi light up the screen with their portrayal of slightly embarrassed, brimming with excitement, in the twilight of life lovers. In a mirroring of the movie they watch onscreen – Alaipayuthey, the couple end of bickering over wet towels and spoons in the sink. Kalidas Jayaram and Kalyani Priyadarshan complete the quadruple cast, playing ‘versions’ of the seasoned actors.
Gautam Vasudev Menon picks a story (Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanum) that hinges on conversations- something of a forte for the film maker. The protagonists are not lovers but a Grandfather and Granddaughter and the unspoken distance in the relationship. Their mode of greeting when they meet at the start of the lockdown and the way they say goodbye seamlessly covers the emotional journey. The underlying theme of this short is Music – another forte of GVM. The conversations between an aging nuclear physicist and his corporate worker grand daughter drive this story and though not extra ordinary, they are emotionally moving without the standard trope of falling to generation gap discussions.
Suhasini Mani Rathnam’s Coffee Anyone? is the highest on emotion among the lot. Starring Shruthi Hassan, Annu Hassan and Suhasini herself as siblings reconnecting for and with their ailing mother, it covers a gamut of emotions in its short duration. The bond between the sisters, the one-sided conversation between their parents, the sisters’ personal issues – Suhasini aims to cover everything in this short, the written material perhaps demanded a movie of its own.
Reunion ( directed by the other Menon, Rajiv) is the weak link in the anthology, although the treatment of a drug addict was refreshing to watch. It takes 21 days to break a habit, which was the duration of the lockdown. It falters after briefly flirting with some interesting moments like the interactions between Leela Samson and Andrea Jeremiah- wait for the scene where she describes her husband’s romantic style as ‘clinical, like giving an injection’. True to its theme, it ends on a hopeful note, but the story does not stay with you like the rest of the anthology.
Miracle, the last short is directed by Karthik Subbaraj and true to his past work he takes the themes established and adhered by the preceding shorts and gives it his trademark twist. To start with, the title of the movie itself is turned on its head. The twist in the short falls somewhere midway on a Petta to Pizza scale, but works nonetheless. Having started out as a short film maker, Karthik is back to his old turf and makes the best use of the 20 odd minutes allotted. The cast headlined by Bobby Simha go through a heist with hopes of miracle that is granted and yet….
Watching this anthology is bound to bring back the jitters and uncertainties of the initial lockdown phase but it also drives home the point that Hope, for the lack of a better word, is good.