Veyil, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, opens with a Woody Allen quote: “If my films make one more person miserable, I’ll feel I have done my job”. Sarath Menon, who has written and directed the Malayalam film, has managed to do just that in his directorial debut. In a good way, mostly.
There are several moments where one feels lost or confused by the wavering plot but the broken bonds of a slow-paced drama lure you back into the story. Veyil loosely translates into ‘sunshine’ — something that the protagonist Sidharth a.k.a. Sidhu (Shane Nigam) finds in the climax shot.
The Malayalam film feels like a strong alcoholic drink that you know will result in a terrible hangover the next day but you can’t put it away. Barring some off moments here and there, it keeps you engaged as you see Sidhu’s life being dissected bit by bit.
‘What’s the problem?’
The 155-minute-long film chronicles Sidhu’s life. The film is interspersed with flashbacks of Sidhu’s younger days that turned his life around and contextualises his present. Living in Kerala’s Edakulam, the young Sidhu lives with his elder brother Karthik (Saed Imran) and mother Radha (Sreerekha). Their father passed away before Sidhu was born. Seeing the two siblings, one is compelled to believe that the apple did fall far from the tree. While Karthik is responsible and studious, Sidhu couldn’t be more different. The latter struggles to finish high school after repeated failures while Karthik takes a crack at medical entrance exams. Their mother tends to favour Karthik, not just because he is seemingly better-behaved but also because he is dealing with a health crisis. Although the film does not specify the medical ailment, it does establish (via dialogues) that most of the family’s money has been spent on his medicines and surgeries.
At one point, a character asks Sidhu, “What’s the problem” referring to his unorganised and haphazard lifestyle. But Sidhu has no answer because he himself does not know. The same question often pops up in conversations with different characters, not in the context of Sidhu. That makes one wonder if any character knows himself/herself at all. Director Menon, who has also penned the screenplay, has convoluted a cinematic world of people where most of them have unresolved issues.
Sidhu feels unwanted at home because his mother keeps pestering him every chance she gets. As Veyil progresses, we learn the reason behind her actions.
Envy and anger
Shane Nigam shines as a damaged protagonist, a type of character he has played earlier too. His droopy shoulders, melancholic expressions and poor luck evoke empathy and Nigam excels in it.
His elder brother Karthik, played by debutant Saed Imran, is battling with his own set of insecurities. Despite doing well in his life, he still looks at his younger brother with a sense of envy.
“As a child, he [Sidhu] always knew how to get what he wanted be it by demanding or crying. You [Karthik] could never do the same. That’s why I had to pay more attention to you,” their mother tells Karthik in one of the scenes. In another scene, Sidhu discovers a notebook titled “My secret love story” from Karthik’s drawer. Expressing his needs and desires was not Karthik’s strength. Imran comes very close to outshining Nigam in several scenes. His individual scenes with the mentally ill neighbour are endearing to watch.
Sreerekha, who plays the mother, appears annoying at first but it is easier to understand once you learn about her struggles. Besides these three, Sidhu’s friend Merin (Merin Jose Pottackal) and neighbour Harikuttan (Harikrishnan K.R.) prove to be a perfect cast.
Veyil was released in theatres on 25 February this year but has recently been released on the streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video.