Within the first few reels, ‘Antakshari’, the new Malayalam film that has dropped on SonyLIV, manages to move across different timelines. The film, where songs are used as an important narrative device, starts off with a scene where we see a middle-aged couple and their teenage daughter watching a song on television. Five minutes later, something happens which leaves you gobsmacked. The title of the film plays out against a black screen and you look forward to find about more about the incident a glimpse of which you just saw.
However, the film switches to a different timeline in which you see a boy from a marginalized community going about his life. The boy’s fascination for a motorbike initially brings a smile to your face but when things get tense, you wonder where destiny will lead this young boy to. You forget that you are watching a thriller and look forward to an inspirational saga but then, the film introduces you to its third story featuring a police officer stationed in a sleepy town in Kerala. Before you find out how sincere the cop is, you realize he has a love for antakshari, the popular Indian musical game. His love for antakshari has also rubbed off on his family. The game of antakshari continues, in different ways, till the penultimate moments of the film.
As the narrative moves forward, you are introduced to more characters. As 30-40 minutes pass by, you try to establish a connection between the different worlds the film introduces you to. The biggest strength of the film lies in the fact that it keeps you completely invested in the narrative even when familiar tropes are introduced. Child abuse, sexual harassment of women, caste-based discrimination, corruption and childhood trauma are some of the many themes the film tries to explore. While certain themes seem to have been incorporated in the screenplay to make the narrative appear ‘fuller’, director Vipin Das treats each of the issues he takes up sensitively.
There are many scenes or sequences in the film that stand out and would remain etched in your memory days after you finish watching the film. Being a direct-to-OTT film, it does not have an interval point. However, if the film was released in the theatres, the interval point would, definitely, have been that scene in which Das, the character played by lead actor Saiju Kurup, arrives at a revelation that could help him solve the case, looks at his bike and smiles. This particular scene also brings a smile to your face as you, just like Das, gear up to solve the riddle.
The way Das goes about trying to find the culprit is quite interesting. The entire investigation procedure has been designed quite nicely. When you commit yourself to watching a thriller, you keenly look forward to seeing how the climax will play out. A nail-biting climax proves to be the biggest reward for watching a thriller. The climax of this film is thrilling but has its share of flaws as well. When a cop realizes that danger is lurking around the corner, he wouldn’t venture out of his house without carrying a gun. While antakshari has been used to great effect here, the face-off between Das and the antagonist could have been far more effective.
Vipin Das, who had earlier helmed the gangster drama ‘Mudhugauv’ gives a good account of himself as a writer and director with this film. One of the biggest strengths of the film, undoubtedly, is the pitch-perfect performance delivered by Saiju Kurup. As a thriller, ‘Antakshari’ succeeds to a great extent. Though not exactly a social drama, the film compels its audience to ponder over several issues that plague our society.