'Aarkariyam' has the pandemic as its backdrop, but lockdown is not the terrain it traverses.
Sanu John Varghese unravels his directorial debut with the build-up of a lockdown, which in itself slows down everybody's pace.
But that sort of eerie pace is also typically associated with small-town folk of the likes of Ittiyavara, a septuagenarian widower who snails through his drop-dead, scenic borough in central Kerala.
As the 73-year-old widower ploughs through the travails of a lonely life with his small-town fixations and irritant mood tantrums, it is only natural that the frames crawl at a laggard pace.
But then, even the bustling pace of India's teeming megapolis of Mumbai goes for a toss as the hitherto unheard of virus wreaks havoc.
So, the situation allows the debutant script writers -- Arun Janardanan, Rajesh Ravi, Sanu John Varughese -- to pluck our protagonist's daughter and her husband from the bedlam of Mumbai to the soothing confines of their native place.
The serene change of scenario itself perhaps took much time, probably as an effort to sync the pace with the progressive ageing of our protagonist.
The scriptwriters including Sanu John Varughese, who also steered the filmmaking from behind the megaphone, have woven the old protagonist with intense attention to detail.
The effort the trio took in jotting down the subtle nuances of the Biju Menon character is evident in subtle intricacies.
The synchronized sound recording, which makes modulation difficult, also might have thrown up another set of challenges for Biju Menon, but this has been deftly dealt with by the actor.
Sanu, who had wielded the camera for Android Kunjappan, Take Off, Lootcase, Badhaai Ho and Vishwaroopam, has aptly passed on the camera to G Sreenivasa Reddy.
So the captivating sharp frames of the 125.51-minute 'Arkariyam', literally translated as 'Who Knows', flow through the reels with finesse.
There seems to be a conscious effort to weave a realistic texture to the Arkariyam's plot, but ahead of the break, a bombshell is dropped with the least noise.
That is craft which then takes the key characters – Biju Menon and Sharafuddin – along with us to a disturbingly different digression and another plain.
And if, at times, we toy with the idea 'Arkariyam's crux is switching to a different genre, we have little time to rack our brains.
From there on, a classic interplay of burdens of yore and misfortunes of the present pull our men into the vortex of their own demons.
Biju Menon and Sharafuddin have excelled with brute honesty and remorseless subtlety and grip the plot leaving little scope for a handful of other characters who, apart from Parvathy Thiruvothu, vie for screen space.
The debutant scriptwriters chose to give depth to the men who carry the plot. The editor's sharp knife should have come into play a bit too often to slash the reel time, but then 'Arkariyam's intrigue allows that flexibility.