Ouija board, comedy, and Malayali realities: Exploring the success of 'Romancham' | The Haunted Column

Romancham posters. Photo: IMDb

Jithu Madhavan shook up Malayalam cinema last year with 'Romancham,' carving out a fresh niche for comedy-horror films in Mollywood. The seamless blend of horror and comedy resonated strongly with audiences, sparking a frenzy. One key factor behind its success was its arrival with minimal fanfare, relying solely on its own strengths rather than hyped expectations.

Now, let's address a crucial question: Did the horror elements in the film truly instil fear? The answer is likely no, but does that diminish the movie's impact? Again, the answer is no. Perhaps it's the grounding in a true story that adds to its chilling effect. Ouija boards aren't foreign to Malayalis, having garnered attention since Mammootty's film 'Aparichithan'. Also, Hollywood has explored Ouija themes extensively, often in serious contexts. However, Jithu chose comedy as the backdrop for horror in this film, offering a refreshing take on the genre.

In Bangalore, a group of financially struggling young men embraces a carefree lifestyle. One day, for amusement, they toy with an Ouija board, only to summon a spirit. Instead of succumbing to fear or hysteria, they gradually integrate the ghost into their circle, finding both amusement and unease in its presence. While such an encounter may not be part of our reality, the relatable nature of the main characters and the resemblance to our own friends make the on-screen events feel entirely believable.

One aspect that shines in 'Romancham' is its skilful pacing, initially setting a light-hearted tone before gradually ramping up the tension. The movie's horror elements follow a steadily rising curve, allowing for a natural progression of fear. As previously mentioned, the film's relatability greatly contributes to its success. With the exception of Soubin Shahir and Arjun Ashokan, the majority of the cast were newcomers to audiences. This lack of prior associations allowed viewers to fully immerse themselves in the characters, and the cast delivered performances that exceeded expectations.

In Romancham, the Ouija board scenes blend excitement with fear seamlessly. Playing together creates a sense of unity, perhaps easing their fear. Yet, when they stop, it's not relief they feel, but rather boredom or aimlessness, lacking other thrills. Developing such a bond with a ghost is both wild and chilling. Arjun Ashokan's character completely shifts the movie's trajectory, infusing it with a heightened sense of fear and suspense. The ambiguous ending leaves audiences craving for more, adding to the intrigue. 'Romancham' strikes a perfect balance between horror and comedy, leaving viewers eagerly anticipating its sequel.

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