Knowledge is empowering. Wouldn’t you live your life a lot differently, perhaps breezily and confidently, if you knew how it was going to end?
In Bhramam (Enchantment), Ravi K Chandran reimagines Sriram Raghavan’s highly-acclaimed Andhadhun as a comedy where the audience, that knows the plot’s fundamental secret, can laugh with the hero rather than wait with bated breath for the truth to come to light at the end. The viewer, here, has been promoted from being among the magician’s audience to his accomplice.
Bhramam faithfully follows Andhadhun’s blueprint while exaggerating its comic and impish edges. Unlike the original film’s Akash (Ayushmann Khuranna) whose blind man act in front of the world was part of his artistic experimentation, Ray Mathews (Prithviraj Sukumaran), a pianist, pretends to be blind because it earns him pity from the world. Cheap housing, more employment opportunities, and other benefits. If Akash was a genius, Ray comes across as a quack who has little sense of guilt when he lies through his teeth or launches a series of crimes at the end of the film.
There are minor thrills aplenty, tailor-made to impress the Malayali audience. Throughout the film, the characters evoke pop-culture icons such as CID Ramdas (Nadodikkattu, 1987), Balamani (Nandanam, 2002) and the recent Vikram Vedha (2017). Shankar Panicker plays Udaya Kumar, a yesteryear actor eerily similar to his real self. At Kumar’s funeral, actress Menaka, who played Shankar’s heroine in the iconic Engane Nee Marakkum (1983), delivers a eulogy. The film is set in Fort Kochi, the picture-postcard neighbourhood which has the soul of an art biennale venue. Ray’s apartment doesn’t look lived-in, thanks to the offhanded production design, but the building is instantly recognisable – the Big B (2007) house that is now a popular tourist destination.
The actors and the properties in Bhramam seek to impress rather than convince the viewer, for they are aware of the film’s nature. Bhramam is one of those recent films that comes labelled as dispensable. It doesn’t aspire to be a timeless work, only a product that looks to cash in on the ongoing content revolution thanks to the OTT culture. It is a playful recap, not a work with a unique artistic design. Prithviraj, for one, seems unusually at ease. His Ray fools around when he should be anxious, and is diligent like a young student when he is flirting or making love. And it works. The actor, whose recent filmography looks like a collective ode to his secret passion for theatre, is aptly restrained here.
But there is only so much the actors can do when the screenplay is dull. Jagadish, an actor with great comic flair, plays a doctor who moonlights as an organ trafficker. The mediocre writing fails to tap into his talent. A lot of the film’s dialogue is devoid of an organic flow; it is as though the text was translated from Hindi to Malayalam by a bot. And for a film headlined by a musician, Bhramam has utterly forgettable music. Jakes Bejoy’s altered version of Andhadhun’s cheerful Naina Da Kya Kasoor is a boring track with juvenile lyrics.
The starkest victim to Ravi K Chandran’s complacency as a filmmaker is Mamta Mohandas, who plays Simi, the wife of Udaya Kumar, a role that Tabu played to ageless grace in Andhadhun. Simi is originally a twist on the classic vamp – wicked, unpredictable and immensely entertaining. But Chandran’s Simi is not frightening or funny, just an inept parody of the character from Andhadhun. She doesn’t get a great moment or a memorable line. Mamta is earnest, but, unfortunately, she cannot escape the inevitable comparisons with Tabu. She can neither bring the house down nor burn it to ashes. But in a film that aspires to be a pastime, an actor’s flawed performance should matter little.
This Bhramam review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.