When Marykutty, the central character in the film Raudram 2018, tries to shout out loud in her muffled voice for help from the darkness of her house engulfed by flood waters, one hears the hapless wail of humanity in the face of horror unleashed by nature. Of all feelings, what the movie directed by Jayaraj evokes the most is the transience of life and the importance of treasuring the sunny mirth that holds only a diminutive space in the larger canvas called life.
The beauty of Raudram 2018, the seventh of Jayaraj's Navarasa series, is that this philosophy is never emphasised overtly but received as the rain that drenches one inadvertently.
Thus the world of Narayanan and Marykutty turns out to be the microcosm of the widespread devastation caused by the worst of floods in the history of Kerala. You relate to the pangs, the terrifying moments, the futility of human designs at the hands of ruthless, invincible and insidious forces of nature. However, the ace filmmaker spares the audience of experiencing the vulgar extremities by means of artistic and subtle handling of the subject.
Narayanan (Renji Panicker) and Marykutty (KPAC Leela) were childhood buddies who romanced all through their youth and married late after retirement. Narayanan was a scientist with a space agency who is now suffering from dementia and his brain is stuck somewhere in a certain period of childhood. Their romance is alive and robust even in the jaws of a catastrophe.
Narayanan, fondly addressed by all as Chahcan, is obsessed with a trip back to Kanjirappally where his childhood memories are moored. He often gives a slip to his wife and the maid servant Pennamma (Sabitha Jayaraj) to reach the nearby bus stop at Pandanad near Changanassery to catch his fictitious bus to Kanjirapally. Usually, Pennamma or any one in the neighbourhood brings him back and explain that there is no one in Kanjirappally now.
The movie opens with the preparation of the elderly couple to fly to the USA to join their kin for Narayanan's dementia treatment. The couple sets off in a taxi when rain was about to turn monstrous. The trip gets cancelled as the flood and rain throw the traffic and flight services out of gear. What follows forms the crux of the plot.
The theatrical emphatics of Leela evidently reminds us of the artist's grace as a theatre artist in her prime. The radiance and charm that the character of Marykutty is stunning. The petrifying moments depicted through her eyes form the essence of the theme the narrative is woven around.
Though the character of Narayanan had to remain locked inside the shell of a dementia-struck, indifferent old man unmindful of the events around him, Renji Panicker essays the role with elan and an impeccable clarity.
As the happy-go-lucky, cheerful and outspoken maid Pennamma, Sabitha Jayaraj stays close to her character. Binu Pappan, son of late Kuthiravattam Pappu captures the characteristic benevolence and anxieties of a such taxi drivers we occasionally meet.
Jayaraj has been able to encapsulate in Roudram 2018 the myriad hues of life by applying symbols, subtle nuances and sound. Nikhil S Praveen's camera kept his frames closer to the frightful reality and keeps the momentum steady. The music and the background score play a complementary role to the enormously captivating drama. What seemed wanting were moments of silence at required spots. Except for some missing links between sequences towards the end the film is an engrossing watch.
The movie never captures the magnitude of the deluge in its fuller scale. But it reaches the fathomless depths of the horror when nature transmogrifies into a monstrous form. It is less cinematic and more realistic and artistic. The movie portrays subtly the travails and desolation of old age. It is a grim reminder of the condition of hundreds of aged parents who are left behind by children pursuing better career options and living standards abroad.
The movie is an ode to nature's fury versus moments of life and is a must-watch. The reproaches, the moans, the laughs and the songs and the sound of the rain all would haunt you long after you have left the theatre.