A review of the Malayalam movie ‘Athmakatha’
‘Athmakatha’, directed by debutant Premlal, revives your faith- in life as well as in good cinema. The movie, which of course failed to get the minimum number of audience to keep the shows going at many places on day one itself, makes you fall in love once again with life. It tells you how life is to be lived, despite all odds. At the same time, the film reassures you that good cinema is still there, in Malayalam.
With Sreenivasan and Shafna doing the key roles, that of a blind father and his young daughter, the film ‘Athmakatha’ tells a very interesting, touching story. Kochubaby (Sreenivasan), called by everyone as ‘Kochu’, is blind and works in a candle manufacturing unit run under the auspices of the local church. The parish priest Father Punnoose (Jagathy Sreekumar) is all praise for Kochu who, in the words of Father Punnoose and of everyone who knows him, “sees things much better than those with eyes”. It was at the age of 13 that Kochu had turned blind. His mother taught him to cope with the darkness that had shrouded his very existence. Thus he learnt to see, despite his blindness, the colours of life and relished life in his own way.
It’s quite coincidentally that Mary (Sharbani Mukherjee), who is also blind, comes into Kochu’s life. They fall in love and get married, with blessings from all. Days pass happily, a child is born to them and they are happy to find that their daughter is not blind like them. Kochu, who had never had the need to light up his home, gets electricity connection to make sure that his daughter gets to see all those things that he and Mary cannot.
Kochu’s life gets a big jolt when Mary is killed in a road accident, knocked down by a truck as she is crossing the road. He brings up his daughter Lilly. Lilly (Shafna) shines in her studies, tops the school and is a favourite of her teachers too. Kochu finds happiness in her happiness and the father-daughter duo pass their days, with love that’s shared in abundance and with happiness that they share with others too. But Fate has something else in store for them. The day it’s revealed that Lilly would lose her eyesight due to an incurable ailment, it seems as if the world would turn upside down for them. Kochu, though shocked and dejected, gets ready to teach his daughter how to cope with life after she turns blind. But for Lilly, it’s beyond the wildest of her imagination. She doesn’t even dare sleep as she fears that she may wake up blind. Things become intolerable for her and finally she decides to end it all, by putting an end to her miserable existence.
The thing that touches you the most of course is not the touching story of Kochu and his family. What touches you is the element of positivism and optimism that pervades the whole fabric of the movie. The director, who pens the script too, presents each and every scene in such a way that you see it all in the natural pace of life. It’s not cinema, it’s life that’s unfurled before you, scene after scene.
Performance wise, it’s Sreenivasan who deserves mention in the first place. Though I had always enjoyed watching Sreenivasan films, I had had the opinion that he was an actor who remained trapped in his stock mannerisms and his trademark kind of dialogue delivery and perhaps had no escape from that. The first half hour of ‘Athmakatha’ seemed to re-affirm that notion of mine. But no, I was to be proved wrong. In the post-interval section, the actor simply metamorphosed into something that I had never before seen happening with him. The scene where he blocks all doors and sits on a chair blocking another existence, lest his daughter should venture out without his knowledge and put an end to her life presented for me a totally new Sreenivasan. Hats off to Sreenivasan for doing this wonderful movie.
Young Shafna, as Lilly, excels in her role. Sharbani Mukherjee, who was last seen in Malayalam in ‘Sufi Paranja Katha’, is good. Jagathy Sreekumar as the priest and all the others in the cast fit into their respective roles perfectly well.
The technical aspects are all in sync with the mood, the tempo of the film. The songs too are good. A highlight of ‘Athmakatha’ is the background score, by Mohan Sithara, which retains the mood effectively and enhances the tempo whenever needed. Of course you feel that at certain places the background score could have been a bit less loud and more subtle. Yet, it’s good.
‘Athmakatha’ may have its flaws, it may resemble movies that you have seen, it may remind you of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rajesh Khanna starrer ‘Anand’ for the positivism it conveys and Gulzar’s Sanjeev Kumar- Jaya Badhuri starrer ‘Koshish’ when it comes to the scene where the blind parents are worried that their daughter too would be blind, but despite it all, it’s a movie worth watching. I feel pity for all those people who flock to see all those trash that’s churned out in the name of cinema in Malayalam these days and not caring a whit for good films like ‘Athmakatha’ and ‘T.D.Dasan Standard VI A’ (which was released a few months back), films by debutantes which seem to convey the message that it’s not all over with Malayalam Cinema.
- What’s ailing Malayalam Cinema? A film lover’s angst!
- Malayalam Superstars out to ruin cinema
- Pokkiri Raja, T.D.Dasan: Who wins?