“The script is KING”. And ‘Virus’ is a testimony to that! Aashiq Abu has employed the most talented set of actors and technicians for his latest film ‘Virus’. With an ensemble cast that would grab your attention any day for their mere presence, and a technical crew featuring the likes of Rajeev Ravi (cinematography), Sushin Shyam (music and original background score) and more, ‘Virus’ proves to be a gripping medical thriller. It re-imagines the Nipah outbreak of 2018 which occurred in North Kerala right from its inception to its eventual containment in a ‘part docu-drama, part thrilling fiction’ way.
Right from the get-go, Abu holds nothing back from the viewers. Taking a nosedive into the daily happenings at Calicut Medical College Hospital, Abu (ably backed by writers Muhsin Parari, Suhas, and Sharfu) sets the story in motion. The greatest achievement of a film such as this is the fact that it neither takes the audience for granted at any point nor spoon-feeds them. When a medical emergency is declared, it is done in the most non-cinematic way you can imagine (there’s no outrageous background score driving the point home or any over-the-top theatrics) but so effectively executed. This is a clear indication of Abu’s masterful storytelling skills.
He also makes great use of a splendid cast at his disposal – every time the film gets too hot on its heels (and turns into an emotional roller-coaster), it cuts to very significant flashback-snippets detailing events that led to initial contact/spreading of infection. What makes these snippets fascinating is that they also add layers to each of the characters that we see either availing or providing treatment. It’s really difficult to zero in on a single standout performance as the ensemble has given full justice to their characters, in spite of their varying screen-times.
That said, the characters played by Soubin, Sreenath Bhasi, and Indrajith will certainly remain etched in my memory for a very long time. The first half proceeds more along the lines of a hard-hitting drama, but by the time the interval card is up, one gets the feeling that a thriller is on the way. Subtlety is Abu’s strong point for sure. Since this was a hot topic in the media last year and had been extensively covered and broken down, we know that everything eventually would end well but Abu keeps the viewers on their toes and amps things up in the last quarter, especially toying with the characters played by Soubin and Dileesh Pothan.
The one film that immediately came to mind while watching ‘Virus‘ however, was Steven Soderbergh’s solid medical thriller ‘Contagion‘ which told an epidemic outbreak story from both micro and macro perspectives. But ‘Virus’ tells a story that hits too close to home and even though it raises doubts regarding a probable bio-hazard/terrorist angle, it’s the individual stories (of patients, victims, doctors, and just people who were trying to help other people) that leave a lasting impression and tower over the docu-drama aspects.
Virus has a script that never questions the viewers’ intelligence
The brilliance of ‘Virus’ is conveyed through its restrained performances, realistic story-telling, effective use of background score (haunting at times, joyous at others), splendid cuts by Saiju Sreedharan, and no-holds-barred cinematography by Rajeev Ravi (I couldn’t help but clap when I saw how a particular ‘bedroom’ shot transitions into a ‘quarantined hospital ward’ shot), and above all, a script that never questions the viewers’ intelligence.
‘Virus’ is not just a tribute to the victims of Nipah – it’s also a chilling account of Kerala’s relentless fighting spirit and an acknowledgement of the efforts put in by those individuals who helped curb this still-mysterious disease to a great extent. As a Malayali, I’m extremely proud of this movie and my people!
Unlike the Nipah virus, the Aashiq Abu film grows on you slowly. [+76%]
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