“I promise my personal life will never figure in my work,” repeats Ebin Mathew (Tovino Thomas), the young public prosecutor, to his clients. He is about to face in the courtroom his fiancée, Madhavi (Keerthy Suresh), the lawyer appearing for the opposite party. However, despite the assurances, neither the clients nor Ebin himself seems convinced. It is no secret that the space between and around a couple in a marriage is dangerously volatile. Lower the guard a little, and the chaos of the outside world would liberally creep into the romantic idyll and turn it upside down. In no time, the courtroom debates start to echo in their bedroom conversations, and Ebin and Madhavi turn into unpleasant versions of themselves, two first-benchers in a classroom vying for the top prize.
This conflict between the personal and professional is the centrepiece of Vaashi, directed by debutante Vishnu Raghav. The two promising young lawyers sign up to share an office room, and the inevitable happens ﹣they fall in love and proceed to marriage. Meanwhile, in a different place and time, another couple who works in the same office spends a night together in an apartment, and a sexual harassment case emerges the next day. Gowtham (Anu Mohan), the accused, argues that what happened between him and his colleague (Anagha Narayanan) was merely a one-night stand, while the petitioner claims that she would never have given her consent to a physical relationship had she known that he had no intention to marry her. At first glance, it is a case of dissonance between two outlooks on romantic relationships and life; modern vs traditional. However, as the legal proceedings begin, you see the cruel circumstances that pushed her to file a case and the lies on which he has built his defence.
If the uncertainty of human emotions makes relationships complicated, the impersonal nature of the law makes the courtroom cases definite. Domestic conflicts and passive emotional abuses, when seen through the lens of law, could take the shape of serious crimes. In Vaashi, however, Vishnu Raghav only toys with the possibility of larger, unredeemable chaos and limits the film to the minor tribulations the professional conflicts cause in Emil’s and Madhavi’s marriage. There are the usual villains ﹣A brother-in-law who pokes his nose into their affairs more than he should, a mother who is afraid the new relatives would steal her daughter away from her religious faith, and the swelling ego clashes between the couple that turn their bedroom into an area of tension.
But, there is barely anything else the film has to say. The narrative darts towards a pre-set destination, a happily-ever-after ending, without exploring the impacts of a gallery-sized ego seeping into a modern romantic relationship. Even the gender discrimination Madhavi faces in her workspace gets reduced to a bullet point. She takes up the case because Gautham is a childhood friend. When she comes to know of his culpability, she chooses to go against her personal views and stand by him. The film does not explore this curious paradox of how women, sometimes, betray fellow women to be a champion of feminism. In the final sequences, the music races, but the tension does not quite form. The new revelations are elementary, and the relationship crisis does not change gear to become anything extraordinary.
Vishnu Raghav seems to be a better filmmaker than he is a writer. The narrative is tight-paced, albeit in its old-school linear style, and some of the scene transitions are delicious. For one, the sprouting of a romance between the lead characters and its progression towards an elaborate, complicated Hindu-Christian wedding is smooth and delightful. He turns a mundane work routine, Madhavi’s night rides through the city, into a warm romantic sight. And for those who can see, there is an amusing metareference. Actress Menaka, Keerthi Suresh’s mother, rose to prominence in mainstream cinema through Priyadarshan’s Poochakkoru Mookkuthi which had her character sharing a living space with the hero and eventually falling in love with him.
The cast is fantastic. Tovino and Keerthi are charming and wonderful performers, especially the latter who aces the straight face of a competent and ambitious lawyer. The duo effortlessly fills the screen with sexual tension when they are together and makes the domestic scenes compelling, despite the mundaneness of the events. Actor Baiju is excellent as a senior lawyer, a friend of the couple who plays a mediator between them when things start to go ugly.
Vaashi does not challenge the norms. Madhavi is appalled when she learns of Goutham’s truth, but the discomfort she undergoes is never raised again or discussed. The lawyers, well-educated and daring to take risks at work, meekly give in when their families intervene in their personal affairs. The film does not pause and reflect on this pseudo-modernity of the elite class. Similarly, the film takes for granted the rampant nepotism in the judiciary. In the end, it zooms into the couple walking hand in hand to the sunset, but a number of questions hang in the air.
This Vaashi 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.