'Vasuki', the dubbed version of 'Puthiya Niyamam' (Malayalam), hits the screens today. Here is our review of the thriller.
Vasuki (Nayanthara) is the wife a lawyer-husband (played by Mammootty) and mother of a school-going girl (played by Baby Ananya). For the past few weeks, she has been looking morose, puzzling the inquisitive child. The husband seems to be in a business-as-usual mode, though.
Enough hints are thrown up to suggest that Vasuki either suffered torture or was witness to a sexual assault from close quarters.
Towards interval, the housewife is drawn to a woman DCP (played by Sheelu Abraham) whose zero tolerance towards lecherous criminals is known to the entire city.
Why is Vasuki showing signs of withdrawal? What is wrong with her and why is she talking to the DCP? What role is her husband going to play in all this? Answers to these questions are found in the second half.
When a Malayalam filmmaker is asked what job he does, does he quote Adam Smith and JM Keynes and then give the answer? After all, he has an intellectual bent of mind, the utility of simple narration be damned.
So, the husband is not just a lawyer or just a film critic. He is both. When a character has to say 'rape', she prefers to say 'IPC 376' instead. The husband-lawyer in a scene goes to the extent of talking about a medical condition that many women suffer before every cycle of menstruation. "Twenty per cent of divorces in the US are caused by this condition called PMS," he informs us. In one of the scenes, the father talks about how some wives were so naughty as to have gone through an abortion even before marriage. In another, he mentions 'acrophobia'. In yet another puzzling scene, a transgender talks about how Socrates' wife smelled. None of these dialogues go into enriching the screenplay.
Then, without any rationale, the phenomenon of extra-marital affairs becomes a motif. What is the point?
Examples of such seemingly peripheral elements making a mark: Vasuki portraying Ravana in a Kathakali performance; the husband convincing spouses who seek divorce at the drop of a hat to sustain their marriage; a character telling the DCP, 'Extreme justice is extreme injustice'.
Some Malayalam critics have it that its spiritual mother is 'Drishyam'. It could even have a spiritual father in Shankar's 'I'.
The climax is where the thriller comes into its own. Writing-wise, it's excellent. But the retrospective feels like an entire film has been narrated in 12 frames. It's that elaborate and sluggish.
The generally brooding mood of the film is revved up by Mammooty's repartees and wisecracks. The daughter is too talkative, nay over-smart, for her age.
Nayanthara was supposed to be the film's soul. While she holds her own till the end, she should have got to speak better lines in the second half.
Gopi Sunder's background music is an absolute treat. Roby Verghese Raj's cinematography is another highlight.
'Vasuki' is an interesting story line. If you are looking for an edge-of-the-seat narration, it disappoints. Nayanthara, Mammootty and Gopi Sunder's BGM are good.