Peranbu: When Silences Speak The Loudest
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Ram, Peranbu is a drama film featuring Mamooty, Sadhana, Anjali Ameer and Anjali in lead roles. Ram’s films have always had layers of eccentricity. He conveys the actions and feelings of his stubborn characters with passion and vehemence. This emotionally pumped approach can be a mixed bag for many people. From Katradhu Tamil to Taramani, the eccentricity in his films can be viewed as both a boon and bane. Now, his fourth film, Peranbu, still has a stubborn character but the eccentricity seems to have been traded for gentle and harsh silences. Largely, a story about a cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter and her father, the conflicts Peranbu finds in their universe and the manner in which it dives into the often tabooed aspects of such a relationship, is so honest a creation, that it is simply poetic.
Peranbu is based on the estranged relationship between Amudhavan (Mammootty) and his cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter Paapa (Sadhana). Frustrated about being abandoned by his wife, he moves to a cottage in the middle of a forest with a heart-broken Paapa to live the life of a hermit. Nature slowly brings Paapa and him together and they begin to build a bond. The same nature again, brings, Viji (Anjali) into their lives, whose ulterior motives force them back to the city life again. Here on, Paapa’s coming of age, the challenges of her condition, Amudhavan’s money crunch and how they survive through their harsh realities form the crux of the story.
Peranbu’s narrative is divided into chapters that tell their story with nature as a metaphor. Throughout the film, Amudhan’s gentle voice over gives you a hint of what is to come. Director Ram infuses a non-linear narrative with a leisure pacing that fills the frame with meaningful silences. These elements come together like poignant poetry. At first impression, you might think the film is about Paapa but is just as much if not more about Amudhan’s coming of age too. Or rather, his journey of making peace with his reality. This transition is portrayed effectively.
The first half is especially beautiful. I like how director Ram brings in many conflicts to layer his story but he also knows when to stop. On one side, it feels pensive to see the father-daughter duo bonding in a cottage that’s one with nature. There is no electricity, no mobile phones and not another house in sight. But there are other heart-warming things like a sparrow that flies into their home and a horse that brings them together. Nature heals the rough edges in their relationship and it is so cathartic to watch. On the other hand, constantly disrupting their peace are local goons and politicians who are constantly bullying them into giving up their home. This conflict involving land-grabbing is done so subtly and silently that it is all the more hard-hitting. You feel just as helpless as the central characters. No scene or concept is forced down your throat and yet works so effectively all because the director has enough clarity to know when to stop.
The second half gives you a jolt. As they return to the city, you are told, this is nature too. Indeed it is. This is the nature that has been twisted and turned to serve a man’s ego. This nature knows no pity and is undeniably harsh. Stuck in a match-box sized room, Paapa is now growing up. She is almost a woman. It is in this chapter that director Ram dives into the aspect of menstruation. This brings conflicting feelings to their relationship. On one side, you have a father, who is readying himself to help his daughter wear a sanitary napkin, and on the other side, you have a daughter who is now fully aware that her father is a man. He deals with this segment so sensitively yet realistically.
As the story goes on, the director talks about Paapa’s sexuality too. At a time when films are too afraid to explore a woman’s sexuality, you have a film like Peranbu that tells you that girls like Paapa have that primal need and it shouldn’t be unaddressed too. It provokes you to think why sexuality shouldn’t be tabooed, why you don’t need to feel shameful in addressing it. The non-judgemental perspective Amudhan has towards other women in the film has been constructed admirably too. Especially the manner in which he never hesitates to help Meera.
But the film isn’t entirely without faults either. There is a heart-wrenching scene in the beach after which you feel as though the director has said whatever he needed to. But from there, Ram takes you to an ending that is beautiful but somehow doesn’t fit into the film as a whole. Nevertheless, the thought behind it is still very much beautiful.
As Amudhan, Mammootty is brilliant. His self-realization and the poised manner in which he handles the curveballs life throws at him is admirably portrayed. Mammootty brings to life a gentle, non-assuming character who has his own quirks too. As Paapa, Sadhana has delivered an accurate portrayal too. The authenticity she brings to her character is impressive. Anjali and Anjali Ameer have done a great job for the short time that they do appear. They bring many shades of grey to the story.
Cinematographer Theni Eashwar has captured the two faces of nature with a lot of honesty. The first half’s lush landscapes are scenic, serene and healing. Whereas the concrete jungle in the second half is captured in a hard-hitting manner. It reminds you of your daily life and how you wish you could escape to the hills. The music gels well with the visuals and the story. It is subtle, minimalistic and when it does play on, it’s presence is soothing and undetected. This is easily Yuvan Shankar Raja’s recent best.
On the whole, Peranbu is a poignantly poetic film that gradually grows on you. This realistic journey is bound to take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride.