There was one common factor that I liked about Sarjun KM’s incredibly popular short films Lakshmi and Maa. More than the unconventional themes he had handled, it was the depth that he had provided to his characters that had grabbed my attention. Lakshmi was about an unhappy wife who chooses reality after a night of indulgence. In Maa, a short about teenage pregnancy, the moment of context was when the mother sends her daughter to hockey practice after the abortion. Both these choices reveal volumes about the women who make them. I was looking for similar depth in Echcharikkai – Idhu Manidhargal Nadamaadum Idam and sadly, didn’t find.
Echcharikkai is a story about David (Kishore) and Thomas (a good debut by Vivek Rajagopal). Thomas’ father, an alcoholic, kills his wife when she refuses to give him money. On learning about his sister’s death, David kills his brother-in-law in front of Thomas. While David cradles his dead sister, Thomas immediately chooses to go to his father and hugs him. You see where the loyalties lie. David asks Thomas to bear his crime — the sentence would be shorter as Thomas is a kid and David would be there to provide for Thomas. We see Thomas agree and you suspect David of emotional manipulation. During interrogation, the police slap Thomas and David instinctively turns away. We realise that the equation is more complex. They kidnap Shwetha (Varalakshmi Sarathkumar) and her father Perumal seeks retd DIG Natraj’s (Sathayraj) help.
But the film falls to chartered routes, establishing archetypes, but never providing the details I needed to be engaged and convinced. Some of the plot transgressions, so glaringly two-dimensional, are further hampered by some done and dusted clichés (For example, a secretary who is too close for comfort, a completely unnecessary romance song). The story moves in a manner that is more convenient rather plausible or novel.
I wish it had focused on some of the questions it raises. Perumal refuses to lodge a formal complaint as Shwetha is about to get married into a wealthy family. “Ponna thotrupangalo nu ninachu kalyanatha niruthiduvanga,” says Perumal. On hearing this Sathyaraj asks, “Endha paiyanadhu thotrupanaglo nu yosichu kalyanam ninuruka?”. “What is the last wish of someone like you who has everything?” asks David to Shwetha, not really expecting an answer. The warning here (Echcharikkai translates to a warning) is that quick fixes don’t get you your happy ending. It is a disappointment that the film felt like an example of the case it was trying to argue.
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.
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