Human fragility is the theme of Shyamaprasad's latest film "Akale". Based on "Glass Menagerie", a Tennessee Williams play, "Akale" tells the story of an Anglo-Indian family in northern Kerala.
Shyamaprasad is known for his unique approach towards cinema. So it is not surprising that the film is an honest transposition of "Glass Menagerie", with four characters playing out the story.
The film begins with Neil (Prithviraj), a middle-aged writer, struggling with the story of his life, which he has promised to give to a publisher.
As he starts writing, we are transported to his past, occupied by his cranky mother Margaret (Sheela) and sister Rose (Geetu Mohandas).
Neil is a frustrated youngster, working as a clerk in a warehouse, but aspiring to be a writer. His only escape from mundane existence is cinema.
Margaret is a demanding and possessive mother, who has her traumatic past to deal with: her sailor husband abandoned her when the children were still young.
Rose is a shy and withdrawn girl, suffering from an inferiority complex because of a slight deformity in her leg. She is fascinated by glass figurines.
Margaret is worried about Neil's weird ways and Rose's future. She and Neil are always at loggerheads. Things take a turn when Neil brings home a young colleague, Freddy Evans (Tom George), for dinner at the insistence of his mother. The dreams of the mother and daughter are shattered when it is revealed that Freddy is already engaged, which ultimately leads to Rose's death.
There are very many sparkling moments that subtly convey the motivations and provocations of the story.
One of the several moments of quiet drama is when Rose's favorite crystal unicorn is accidentally broken by Freddy while they are dancing. Rose says it has become like the other horses in her collection, so now it can live like them in their company - a poignant comment on her own condition.
Geetu Mohandas has got a role that will establish her as a serious actress with bright prospects.
Prithviraj is convincing as a frustrated youngster, but his portrayal of the middle-aged writer with a little paunch and salt-and-pepper hair is a real surprise.
Sheela looks stereotypical, but the fault is not hers. It is the way her character is written. Tom George, also the producer of the movie, plays his part with conviction.
On the technical front, S. Kumar's cinematography creates the mood of a lost era with sepia-tinted images. Raj Unnithan's art direction and Cuckoo Parmeshwaran's costumes lend authenticity to the Anglo-Indian settings of the 1970s.
"Akale" may not prove to be a money-spinner at the box-office, but those who rue the passing away of the parallel cinema movement will surely appreciate Shyamaprasad's effort.