The script also reflects how different a birthday celebration and a mournful event are, and yet similar - in terms of the alcohol that keeps flowing, the memories that are being traced and the people who show up.
Story: After spending the past couple of years alone and depressed in an isolated province in Canada, Joymon decides to come back to Kerala to celebrate his 30th birthday. His friend Dr Faisal decides to throw him a small party at another unwilling buddy Sambath's house. The same day, something grim happens at Sambath's neighbour house. The chaos that ensues when the two contrasting events happen in neighbouring houses take the plot forward of this theatrical release.
Review: The first few minutes of director Chidambaram's Jan-E-Man are set in a remote, snow-covered province in Canada where the film's pivotal character Joymon (Basil Joseph) is grappling with loneliness and depression, as he is stuck in a job he doesn't like due to the lack of company and in a place that curbs his natural effervescent personality. His family and friends in Kerala hardly have time for him due to time difference and his longest conversation is with a virtual assistant that constantly feeds him negative news of the biting winter conditions or the lack of new messages. Joymon's pain, however, is portrayed in a hilarious manner by the debutant filmmaker, who then brings these emotions back later in the film as Joymon has a conversation with Monichan (Balu Varghese), whom he his meeting for the very first time under grim circumstances. Monichan hasn't talked to his father or family in years. Despite having everyone around him, he chose to remain detached and it's this isolation - one self-inflicted and the other forced upon - that relates the two vastly different characters who find themselves in polarising circumstances. This is also a recurring facet in Chidambaram's brilliant debut that takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions.
The film is about Joymon, a nurse settled in Canada, who comes to Kerala to celebrate his 30th birthday. His friend and dermatologist Dr Faisal (Ganapathy) decides to host him, but at the house of another friend Sambath (Arjun Ashokan), who is reluctant but budges considering it's a one-off event. Joymon, however, wants it to be a birthday to remember and has a host of surprises in store - from an event management guy to a slew of guests from their school days. But there's also a shock next door. The contrasting scenarios along with a host of characters ensure that Joymon's 'small' birthday party will have a huge repercussions.
The movie has a host of characters with Basil Joseph, Arjun Ashokan, Ganapathy, Lal, Balu Varghese, Riya Saira and Siddharth Menon in the hilarious role as the serial actor Nandan Varma being the pivotal characters. Often in a movie with so many characters, several arcs are left hanging in the middle of the film as the script tries to narrow the focus and come to a striking finish. Here, Chidambaram leaves the drama to unfold with the broader arcs playing out organically so that each character is significant to the story and how it is told.
While the dark humour surrounding Basil's character is the core of the film, Balu Varghese as the jarring Monichan stands out for the sombre portrayal of his role. Lal brings in the maturity that his character demanded, but lets it slip just as easily at a crucial juncture in the movie. Ganapathy as the dermatologist along with artistes who played the goons add to the humour of the movie.
While the movie has quite a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and a few heart-rending moments, the humour in the scenes between Sampath, Joymon and Faisal during the birthday celebration does appear a bit forced and drags the movie that already has a promising plot. Siddharth Menon is aptly cast as child-killing serial 'hero', who is sweet and soft-spoken in real life.
Vishnu Thandassery, who is also debuting as a cinematographer, keeps the frames delightful in the house where the birthday bash is being hosted, and gloomy in the other location, but never to the point that it affects the film's genre as an entertainer. Considering that the film is extensively set in these two locations, he does a neat job in never letting the frames be redundant and makes an impact in two sparking junctures. Bijibal's music complements the see-saw narrative.
The script also reflects how different a birthday celebration and a funeral are, and yet similar - in terms of the alcohol that keeps flowing, the memories that are being traced and the people who show up.
Verdict: Jan.E.Man, which marks a great debut from Chidambaram, offers liberal doses of laughter, some heart-tugging moments and useful insights in a world where friends circles are getting smaller by the day and where neighbours are more or less like strangers. The movie, which released in theatres on November 12, will provide a welcome break from the thrillers on OTTs.