Varnyathil Aashanka (‘Confusion in the Description’) is a film made by Sidharth Bharathan, son of the actress K.P.A.C. Lalitha and the late great director of yesteryear, Bharathan. While his acting career stalled after a promising debut with Kamal’s ‘Nammal’ (where he debuted along with the recently sadly demised Jishnu) in the early noughties, he has proved much more effective and promising as a director in his three-film old career up till now. His first, ‘Nidra’, was a remake of one of his father’s old films, and it was a sensitively told tale of love amidst a potentially crippling mental illness. What I remember from this film was that Rima Kallingal gave a brilliant performance which anchored the film, but while Sidharth Bharathan ably directed it, he could have done with a better actor than himself in the film. He seemed to understand this himself, as the next two movies of his didn’t star him. ‘Chandrettan Evideya’ was one of those rare thoughtful outings from Dileep, but this one is probably his best of the lot.
If one were to give a brief synopsis of the film, we could say it is about four petty thieves in Thrissur and their heist of a jewelry store on one of those ubiquitous Kerala hartal days. And also, about the down on his luck loser who inadvertently comes into their plans. But that would be an incomplete understanding of it. More accurate would be to call it a satirical, and at times black, comedy of errors with political undertones in its denouement. Often keenly observed and remarkably well made, and acted superbly, especially by the revitalized Suraj Venjaramoodu and a virtually unrecognizable Kunchacko Boban.
Each of the protagonists (or antagonists) are given a suitable introduction which explains their mental makeup. Kowta Shivan (Boban) is a good for nothing living in the shadow of his brother, a small-time political party leader in their town. Shivan would like nothing more than to put one over his brother while he survives with various petty thefts. It is in the course of one of these thefts that he inadvertently takes a bike off another thief (Manikandan Achari), who had himself swiped it off a priest (a running joke in the film). Meanwhile, Pratheesh (Shine Tom Chacko) has taken some gold for a loan off a girl he knows, and is now desperate to give it back in light of her threats of suicide. His attempt at tomfoolery ends in a scuffle with Shivan’s brother and his party workers. Eventually, they all meet up amid these various misjudgements at the place of Paara Wilson (a relatively subdued Chemban Vinod Jose), who is like a bit of a dampener among all the fiery tempers flying around. A lot of the film seems to pass by here then, with all of them not doing much other than drinking and talking. It is then that we are introduced to the character of Suraj, Dayanandan, and his flustered family. His justifiably livid wife wakes him up with a hilarious retort of tying the empty gas cylinder to his sleeping form to remind him of yet another task he had forgotten. Dayanandan is presented as a complete no-hoper, a former bar handler whose livelihood was curtailed when the government closed down most bars in the state, and someone who doesn’t seem capable of seizing any kind of day, let alone a hartal day.
But it is precisely a hartal day which brings all of these characters together, along with a few police officers in some hilariously observed asides. The planning and execution of the heist is as sudden as the hartal proclamation, which is understandable. The political ruckus was in fact caused by the four, in another case of inadvertent drunken boisterousness, and when a jewellery store owner’s ad throws up inspiration, our heroes (?) decide to go all out. Unbeknownst to them, a luckless Dayanandan who lost his money from selling his gold to a couple of no-gooders, is also on course to smack right into them that night.
As previously mentioned, a synopsis doesn’t do justice to the cleverness of this film. I liked the fact that there weren’t any unnecessary romantic side plots or songs to break the narrative. Some of the scenes are hilarious but not exactly of the slapstick variety. Instead they play on your senses and remain in your mind long after the movie is done with their delicious wit. An example would be the scene inside the jewelry, where a conscientious Shivan uses the scales inside the shop for weighing the loot and dividing them among the 5 miscreants there itself. The scene plays out almost in the background while bigger plans of how to make the escape are going on around him, yet it sticks. I also liked the way the character of Dayanandan comes out from the sidelines and firmly establishes himself as the mainstay of the film towards the end. The old adage, every dog has its day, finds perfect expression in this character as he sees his chance and grabs onto it with fervent enthusiasm. His turn in fortunes and the climactic scenes point to a farce which mirror the social and political conventions of our times. It’s a fine line the makers walk with this turn into political satire towards the end, but I think it works well for the movie. The sharply observed comedy lifts it above regular heist films, which appear to be a dime a dozen nowadays. At the very least, this is a slightly underappreciated film which deserves to be seen by more people