“What’s your most favorite thing in the world?”, asks Sara. “Wind!”, answers Ajith gruffly. The symbolic overtones in the word “wind” may not be clear to the audience at this point. The main Characters in Oru kaatil oru paykappal have a windy quality to their existence. They exude the unpredictability and impermanence of the most ordinary wind. As we learn later in the film, their vicissitude of fate also contains this windy quality.
Sara (Mythili) is this starry eyed girl who helps her parents manage their tourist homestay. She is criminally cute, and her eyes radiate a wave of mystery that can give any Manic Pixie girl a run for her money. She has a mysterious admirer who sends her letters. And she sees dreams about a sailboat. Well, things get all the more mysterious when she meets Ajith (Shine Tom) a sailor who moves to her homestay with plans for building a sailboat on his own.
We soon learn that they don’t have much in common apart from the fact that Ajith is building a sailboat, and Sara sees surreal cartoonish dreams where she accompanies some guy on a sailboat. As the story progresses, he becomes fixated on his vision like a sailor duty-bound to get his boat ashore. Ajith grows increasingly taciturn, and immerse himself into boat construction to the extent that he deliberately dismisses Sara’s amorous advances. Later, a brief but passionate smooch session smothers the awkward tension between the two, but not without leaving an air of ambiguity over their relationship.
This is a cute little movie that is in no hurry to reveal its true colors. After all it doesn’t have a plotline to resolve or a mystery to unravel. Rather, the director seems just happy letting main characters languidly pass through the frames without giving us much food for thought. Although it took me a while to make sense of the writing process, I was not frustrated at any point (Barring the last 10 minutes). In fact, in time I found myself snuggling up to the rustic familiarity of Alappuzha backwaters, and paying attention to the brief but compassionate anecdotes of the characters.
Soon, my yearning for the characters’ backstory gave way to an eagerness to learn what the fate has in store for them. I think it takes a special skill to make audience feel that way. At times I felt like I was in the process of reading this intricate short story that carried no book blurb or how-to-read instructions. But this story telling technique was not without its shortcomings. From the very beginning I was pretty on board with the notion of a sailor single-handedly constructing a sailboat in the laps of Alappuzha. Although we hear nothing about the boat builder’s past beyond his professional credentials, I was immediately hooked by the novelty of it all.
Suraj Venjaramoodu left his mark on the story, playing an emotionally repressed boat builder with his own baggage of love and loss. With a controlled minimalism, Writer/Director G.P. Vijayakumar seemed to know exactly what he wanted his characters to do to make this story work. Famous Screenwriter, P. Balachandran, plays Sara’s father Freddie whose chemistry with his wife offers the much needed comic relief in the film. Advocate Laly Vincent played the character Gloria in what was her acting debut.
When a movie, that spends nearly all of its running time giving us a breezy, immersive experience, goes out like a wind to end its proceedings, it will not sit well with the audience. Even more so when it does away with the backstory conventions, leaving a lot about the characters’ motivations and actions to the imagination of audience. But then oru kaatil oru paykappal is more concerned about telling this small story in its whimsically unique way than it is about proving its narrative soundness to the audience. And I was left unconvinced by the brusque manner in which it wrapped up the story.
If the shoddy editing cuts to introduce the voiceover jarred on my senses, the climax bit nearly ruined an otherwise decent cinema experience for me. Though ‘oru kaatil oru paykappal’ doesn’t fall into the trap of information dumb towards the end, it suffers from injecting some off-key dose of drama into a film that was better off without it. I felt that climax was cobbled together at the last minute to give the movie more contemporary relevance.
However, you don’t hate a movie because it’s ending disagrees with you. On the contrary you look back on it differently and more importantly be grateful for all its great moments. And those moments were my take away from this movie. Take for instance the master shot where you see an excited Ajith pressing his ear close to a shipwreck on beach, and acting as if he overheard some secret tip to help him build his masterpiece.