Review: Ram’s Peranbu is divided into multiple chapters, with each one alternately describing nature in the most glowing or loathing terms — Iyarkkai Athisayamaanathu, Iyarkkai Kodooramanathu, Iyarkkai Arputhamaanathu, Iyarkkai Aabathaanathu and so on. But that is how the life of the film’s protagonist, Amudhavan (Mammootty) is; for a while, his troubles seem to vanish only to reappear soon. Ram beautifully encapsulates this idea visually, by repeatedly us giving us shots of mist enveloping or lifting off from the lake by which Amudhavan resides during the first half of the film.
When the film begins, we see Amudhavan moving into a house by this lake with his daughter, Paapa (Sadhana), a spastic child. His wife has left him for another man, and he is forced to look after the daughter whom he has tried to avoid since she was born. Even as he makes attempts to bond with her, he realises that Paapa needs a female caregiver, especially because the teenaged girl is waking up to her sexuality. One moment, she is counting the stars, and the next, she is crushing over a star!
Right from his debut film, Kattradhu Tamizh, Ram’s protagonists have been flawed individuals engaged in a battle with society one way or the other. In Peranbu, Amudhavan is frustrated that society will not allow his disabled daughter to be in its midst, and takes her away to a place removed from human interaction. And when they are forced to return to the city, he has to deal with the yardsticks with which society looks at a special child.
Peranbu is filled with poignant moments. Like when Amudhavan tries to walk in Paapa’s shoes; his retort to a couple (Anjali and Pavel Navageethan) who has betrayed his trust; the conversation between him and an activist who works with sex workers; the reason that Meera (Anjali Ameer), a transgender sex worker, gives him for rolling down the window while they are in his car; the explanation a father (Poo Ramu) offers on why he prefers to have his son in an institution that abuses inmates rather than live with him.
We also get black comedy when Amudhavan ends up inviting a man to his house not realising that the woman he is living with is actually the guy’s wife. Even the name Paapa seems like a stab at dark humour, given that the movie keeps telling us that she is actually a girl who is turning into a woman right in front of her father’s eyes.
Then there are the performances. With his superbly nuanced portrayal, Mammootty puts across the sheer helplessness of Amudhavan. In a role that could have easily become a caricature, Sadhana strikes a fine balance between being showy and subtle. In a tricky role, Anjali makes us empathise with her character while debutant Anjali Ameer makes Meera a noteworthy one.
The technical crew also comes up with their best. Yuvan’s score hits the right emotional notes while Theni Eswar, as he did in Taramani and Merku Thodarchi Malai, comes up with visuals that wonderfully complement the narrative.