The name Anuraga Karikkinvellam is a nod to an evergreen Malayalam song from the black and white era. A song that compares love to the sweetness of tender coconut water. In Khalid Rahman’s directorial debut, a man discovers the taste of unadulterated selfless romance at a later stage in life. The narrative is charming, thanks to the innate ordinariness of its characters and the situations they are caught in.
The film revolves around a middle-class family in Kochi. The head of the household, Raghu (Biju Menon), shows no particular affection towards his wife, Suma (Asha Sarath) or his kids. He is short-tempered at work, and at home, he is a brooding middle-aged man. His son Abhi (Asif Ali) is a struggling architect with an overly attached girlfriend, Elizebeth aka Eli (Renisha). Life turns upside down for Raghu after he spots his childhood sweetheart, Anuradha, on the road one day.
There is no dull moment in Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, thanks to the film’s emphasise on details. There is an element of curiosity in every character, the lead as well as the supporting ones. Like James (Sudheer Karamana), Raghu’s colleague, who imparts to Raghu quirky lessons on matters such as married life. Or Suma’s cat who is named Molecule, probably in memory of her academic qualification as a chemistry graduate that none of her family members seem to remember now.
The film proceeds semi-realistically, with minimum melodrama and a lot of relate-able situations. The changes that come over Raghu, after he begins the spate of phone conversations with Anu, proceeds in a slow pace. One almost expects him to start acting like a teenager who discovered romance over night. Unlike Nedumudi Venu in Ishtam, who turns into a caricature after he bumps into his childhood sweetheart at a wedding function, Raghu, thankfully, doesn’t act comical. Their relationship is utmost heart-warming.
The trajectory of the romance between Abhi and Eli is something mainstream Malayalam cinema has never warmed up to. Eli is more than just an obsessed girlfriend. She is a person who naively trusts life and people around her. When Abhi threatens to walk away, she is introduced to a new side of life which she never knew that existed. Debutant actress Rejisha is a whiff of fresh air on screen. Watch her tell Suma that her height wouldn’t be a problem anymore as she has started using high-heels. She is a natural actor.
Renganaath Ravee’s brilliant sound design adds to the film’s positives. Even the cacophony of the metropolis seamlessly becomes an organic part of the film. Prashanth Pillai’s songs set the mood easily. Jimshy Khalid’s camera focuses on interesting close-ups inside Raghu’s middle-class home. Everyone, including Molecule, becomes a part of the story. The camera captures the essence of Kochi through fine wide-angle exterior shots.
Among the actors, Biju Menon stands out with his brilliant performance as Raghu. Asif Ali’s character might remind one of his role in Salt And Pepper, but much subtler than the latter.
Anuraga Karikkinvellam, as its name suggests, is a breezy take on life, in all its ordinariness. It doesn’t frown upon the silly things that the older generation do. Or it doesn’t judge the confused modern generation. The kind of film that comes with a deeper understanding of its characters.