What director Vipin Das does best in Antakshari, which is streaming on Sony LIV, is how he uses fringe characters and subplots to drive home the various ways in which unresolved trauma can manifest in different people, thereby also making viewers understand the perpetrator’s state of mind
Last Updated: 07.16 AM, Apr 22, 2022
Story: Circle Inspector Das has a penchant for antakshari and often asks those approaching his police station to partake in the game. One day, he gets a call from an anonymous number goading him to sing along. After Das refuses, his daughter gets attacked on her way back from school, sending the family into panic. Das along with a sub inspector on probation then sets off on an investigation to find out cases with similar modus operandi. What connects the cases with that of Das and family further leads to more revelations about the man responsible.
Review: Director Vipin Das’ debut film Mudhugauv, which was a comedy entertainer, revolved around the impact that a particular incident, spurred on by its protagonist, has in the lives of three groups of people. The filmmaker’s latest venture Antakshari, which is a psycho-thriller at its core, shows the evolution of director and his screenplay in the sense that this film too picks up by introducing multiple characters and the ensuing incidents, without really assigning a chronological order to these in the beginning. But as the story progresses, these incidents connect organically to the overall arc while also serving as subtexts to its core theme of childhood trauma and how it manifests in the lives of people.
From the outset, it’s clear that Vipin had approached Antakshari as an OTT film; he doesn’t rely on the histrionics to make it entertaining for the audience, but rather lets the story take its time and sink in, hence allowing the viewers to connect the dots. He begins by showing the life of a less-privileged boy who has been looked-down-upon and ill-treated by the society till a cop tells him the only way he would earn respect would be if he makes money or becomes a police officer. But the plot makes headway when it focuses on its protagonist – Circle Inspector Das (Saiju Kurup), who has a penchant for playing antakshari. An anonymous call, followed by an attack on his daughter, sends Das’ family into panic and the cop begins to investigate similar cases along with a sub inspector(Sudhy Koppa), who has just joined the service.
Throughout the movie, Vipin shuttles between the main plot involving Das’ hunt for the criminal and subplots that include a misogynist stepfather’s attitude towards his family, and a young girl, who has gone through a traumatic past, finding her voice. What Vipin does best in the film is how he uses these fringe characters to drive home the various ways in which unresolved trauma can manifest in different people, thereby also making viewers understand the perpetrator’s state of mind. That said, Antakshari is not an easy movie to watch – it has animal torture, a brutal sexual assault sequence and children being abused.
The characters in the film too are raw and real, and the movie doesn’t shy away from showing those as they are. Be it workplace sexual harassment, superiors’ disdain or even how cops are soon to dismiss complaints of assault as ‘someone trying to have fun’, Antakshari touches upon these aspects while telling its gripping story. Debutant cinematographer Bablu Aju’s frames lend the film a realistic touch and aid in creating and sustaining the tension in the movie, especially during the climax portions that are set in and around a secluded house at night. However, the pacing also slackens here – because once the motive of the killer is revealed, it then turns into a cat-and-mouse game that ultimately becomes a home invasion thriller that peters out fast. Some of the threads including that of a family too don't get closure, almost as if the makers had edited out several portions to bring down the length for an OTT release.
Saiju plays one of his most serious roles so far as Das, and carries the film. The sequence where he engages the killer in a game of antakshari in the dark of the woods amplifies the tension, through his voice modulation. Those behind the soundscape of the movie deserve special mention. Sudhy also stands out in his role as a fresh cop, who is caught between having to do what’s right and obeying his superiors. Kottayam Ramesh, Boban Samuel, Vijay Babu, Shabareesh Varma and Priyanka Nair are cast against their type and this has worked well for the movie.
Verdict: Antakshari, which is streaming on Sony LIV, is not an easy movie to watch, but it’s a raw and gripping depiction of trauma and its aftereffects told in the form of a realistic thriller.