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Critics Review
Maarikkalam short film review: A visually vibrant tragedy that ultimately falls short

A short film about loss and regret.

2.5
Ryan Gomez
Jul 06, 2021
 
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What’s it about:

The short film puts focus on the slow death of art forms in Kerala, and how it is affecting the livelihoods of artists across the state. The film is about a ‘Theyyam’ artist, who performs at the local temple and how his family is forced to move out of their home as the bank decides to foreclose the property. It features minimum dialogues and puts emphasis on the setting, frames and music as a narrative tool.

What’s hot:

The visuals and the frames are not perfect, but they certainly are visceral and does manage to keep the intrigue of the viewers. The filmmakers have opted for a screenplay that is often seen in theatre performances. It is a self-aware creative decision that has certainly given the narrative an additional layer of depth.

It is also interesting to note that the film is a critique on society’s failure to acknowledge the fact that art and artists are struggling to stay relevant in contemporary Kerala. The performance by the lead actor is commendable. His portrayal of the ‘Theyyam’ artist, the ‘Velichappadu’ for the temple and as a ‘chenda’ player showcased his varied range as an artist.

The short film does hint that it is in fact a homage to M T Vasudevan Nair’s 1973 film Nirmalyam. P J Antony won a National award for Best Actor, the first to win from Kerala, for his lead role as the temple ‘Velichappadu’ in Nirmalyam. Thematically and narratively there are similarities between Marikkalam and Nirmalyam, however Nirmalyam is a much darker and sombre tragedy.

What’s not:

The performances by the secondary cast seemed a bit out of place with the overall narrative. The choice of background score in certain scenes was jarring and ruined the immersive experience offered by the plot. It would have been ideal if the filmmakers decided to use music for the score for particular scenes which matched with the aesthetics of the music and visuals of the overall narrative. The easier solution would have been to completely avoid certain sounds to denote the mood of the screenplay, and let the dialogues work on their own for the screenplay.

The choice of the extended montage towards the end seemed to be a minute or two longer than necessary, which ultimately became counter productive.

Verdict:

The short film does deserve praise for the social message it is trying to convey, which is that society as a collective needs to wake up to the reality of the slow death of art in the state, largely due to the pandemic, before it’s too late.

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