In Priyadarshan’s Netflix release Sila Samayangalil, the typical Indian-ness of everyday life is beautifully portrayed. Jostling for a position at the start of a queue and the belligerence towards anybody who cuts in, washing one’s face and mouth after a hearty meal at a South Indian restaurant, making small talk about other people, and complaining about mundane things such as the bubble top waster dispenser at a clinic. It’s the little things that count here. If anything, it’s Priyadarshan’s characters, and not their sad stories that give the film more heart.
The story is as simple as it gets – it focusses on the frustrations of various strangers waiting for the results of an HIV test. The pathology lab is run by a hot-headed doctor (Nasser in a cameo) and a receptionist (Sriya Reddy), who has her own troubles to deal with. Between accepting the payment from patients and assigning tokens, the receptionist keeps getting calls from her mother about the debt they have to pay. She yells, often forgets work, and hides from the scene, giving the patients at the pathology lab much to grumble about. They have no option but to wait till 5.30 pm at the uninventively-named ‘Medi Check’ lab.
With hours to spare, the group tries to pass time. Unlike the other people who are fidgety to know the results, the young Bala Murugan, played by a fairly impressive Ashok Selvan, bides his time by getting to know the rather reserved middle-aged Krishnamurthy (Prakash Raj), who prefers to read magazines and hold on tight to his umbrella and bag. He tries to ease the poor man’s worries, but several attempts later, he breaks the ice by telling the story behind his taking an HIV test.
Soon, the audience is presented with the backstories of these folks who look regular but have ‘different’ tales to tell. The receptionist’s story adds to this potpourri. While the focus is on the stigma of AIDS, something that the characters are afraid of, Priyadarshan tries to show that despite the circumstances, his characters are, after all, human.
The film, however, does delve into territories typical of Indian cinema, where the morality of a girl and sexual assault serve as topics of discussion, but they are easily brushed aside before they affect the breeziness of the film.
While the narrative is engaging, the pace wavers. Sometimes, events that catch you off guard unfold, but, more often than not, you feel like you have a ringside seat to observe the life of everyday folk. It is boring until somebody speaks and says something absolutely outrageous. The film concludes with statistics about AIDS and the need to spread awareness. Sure, awareness works, but why reduce a film that has a motley bunch of fascinating everyday characters to one taking a moral high ground and passing on a social message?
The film also stars MS Bhaskar, Shanmugarajan, Varun and Anjali Rao, and the film is available for viewing on Netflix India.
The Sila Samayangalil 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.