There was a time, until not long ago, when Malayalam short films used to largely revolve around engineering campuses. Love, love failure, backlogs; forget shorts, even feature films such as Koothara, Aanandam, Happy Wedding and Chunks had superficial stories that spoke about the lives of engineering students, even if they were not rooted in that world.
Ethiru (The Opposite), a short film directed by Nipin Narayanan, breaks this tradition and comes as a breath of fresh air. Set in a remote rural area, it features only three characters; that too nameless.
Very few movies have delved into the world portrayed in Ethiru. A woman lives alone in her home. She sweeps her backyard and collects twigs and wood to cook food. Hers is a world so remote she doesn’t have electricity and lights a lamp in the evening. She isn’t used to surprises, even in the form of visitors.
She comes across two men, one of whom seeks her help. The title acquires a metaphorical meaning during this situation – while she expects a day as regular as any, the opposite happens. The men are forced to give up their original plan, which would’ve been not getting involved with other people and going their way. This is her life and she doesn’t expect any deviation from its normalcy. Which is why she asks the strangers if anyone would come by looking for them.
The three actors deliver natural performances. Barring the background music which, in one particular instance, blares, the technical quality is exceptional by short film standards. The art direction and locales succeed in creating a world only heard about in stories while retaining an air of authenticity. The cinematography and sound recording capture the essence of the forest, brook and crickets, and render it believable.
However, the same cannot be said about the concept at play. The characters’ plans go further awry towards the end and the title gains literal meaning. But, there’s no sense of closure, and you’re left with a question: Did this story warrant the usage of a visual medium?
Here’s the link to the short film: