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Varathan poster

Terrifying stares and voyeurism — something that women are familiar with in our society. Director Amal Neerad has taken inspiration from many such scary incidents for his Malayalam movie Varathan (outsider).

Fahadh Faasil (Abin) and Aishwarya Lekshmi (Priya) return to Kerala from Dubai to start a new life together. From a cab driver staring at her through the rear-view mirror, many leering eyes follow Priya ever since they land in India. She faces many spine-chilling moments and emotional tortures at her hometown, a place called 18th mile in Wagamon. How the couple handles the issues, especially Abi, who is an outsider there, form the crux of this survival thriller.

Performances of Fahadh and Aishwarya

From an IT professional to a naïve clueless-turned-responsible husband, Fahadh again proves he is an excellent performer. The graceful actor always steps into the different shades of his characters effortlessly in all his movies.

After Mayanadhi, Aishwarya portrays the character of a strong woman, yet vulnerable at the same time. The way she has handled this character Priya, one that was given an equal space as of her male counterpart in the movie, proves that she is not here just to stay as a pretty heroine. With a good screen presence and genuine reactions, she impresses the audience. And, she looks beautiful in every shot and attire.

Both Fahadh and Aishwarya have complemented each other throughout the movie and their chemistry was magical onscreen (especially in their wedding anniversary celebration scene). Their gestures and minimal conversations look so genuine that it had a very realistic feel. The setting, lighting and camera work too gave a truly romantic vibe to it.

Other performances in Varathan

One interesting thing about Varathan is that we don’t see cliché villains. Among the antagonists, it is Vijilesh Karayad, who delivers a super realistic performance. The way he gazes at women is very scary! Even Kochu Preman’s character, a creepy old man called Oonthu, eye-rapes women, totally!

The character Josy portrayed by comedian Sharafudheen is a total surprise and I took some time to recognise him in this new avatar. The actor has finally moved out of his comfort zone as a very convincing villain. There is a particular scene involving these characters to describe the moral policing attitude of almost all the villagers in the area. And let’s just call them a frustrated bunch of beasts, who are sexually deprived.

Also read: Padayottam review

Meanwhile, Dileesh Pothen, Unnimaya, and Chethan Jayalal have also done notable performances in Varathan. However, somehow Arjun Ashokan still looks like the boy next door, and not a villain.

What stands out?

The major highlight of Varathan is that its story-line keeps us thrilled throughout. Cinematographer Littil Swayamp’s visuals effectively capture the mood of the narrative. Gripping and chilling scenes, indeed!

I am sure, just like me, every woman might feel insecure while watching the situations faced by Priya. I reached home with a heavy heart wondering what would my father/brother/husband do to protect me during a similar situation!

Varathan’s script penned by the duo Suhas–Sharfu is enthralling from the start to its end with some well-knit characters, and there aren’t many flaws to point out. It builds a knife-edge tension in the viewer’s mind. Also, Sushin Shyam’s background score is phenomenal.

Though slow-motion scenes and gun-holding gangsters are part and parcel of Amal Neerad movies, thankfully, they were not annoying in Varathan. The stunt sequences in the climax are actually a treat to watch.

What went wrong?

I’ll be nitpicking here.

Though the overall cinematography is excellent, during the first half, set in Dubai, there are two scenes in which the visuals shake a bit. Even if it was a deliberate attempt, it actually annoyed me.

Meanwhile, I wonder how such a naïve personality like Abi can transform suddenly into a superhero seen in the climax scenes? Circumstances might change a person. Like a character in the movie asked, I would also like to know what job he was exactly doing in Dubai! Also, Abi’s background lacks clarity. In a particular scene, he says he doesn’t have nostalgic stories to tell and in another moment, he recollects his mother’s duck curry. 

Also, though self-defense is acceptable as per the law and order of our country, I really don’t know its regulations in India. Since I am not aware of it, Varathan’s climax was a bit confusing.

Final verdict

Varathan is an exciting and thrilling entertainer that guarantees to keep the audience engaged throughout. An air of mystery surrounds every scene in the second half of the film. I guess every woman will feel she is also being followed by those perverts. And, I would like to tag Varathan the best of Amal Neerad to date.

Rating: 4/5


5 stars: Exceptional, masterpiece 
4.5 stars: Well crafted piece of art 
4 stars: Very good, exciting, interesting/new concept  
3.5 stars: Good, but some minor flaws 
3 stars: Okay, one-time watch 
2.5 stars: Mixed feelings 
2 stars: Disappointing. Watch at your own risk  
1.5 stars: Frustrating. 
1 star: A complete disaster. Better avoid this


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