Fahadh Faasil has been on a roll this year. Having had 9 releases this year already before Onam and that too films of totally different genres and themes, it was not that surprising to see that Fahadh had 2 films lined up for Onam as well (among the 5 films making it). Once again the 2 Onam releases – North 24 Kaatham and D-Company are again totally different from each other, again an example of the versatility being observed in his films. Anil Radhakrishnan Menon makes his entry into Malayalam Cinema with North 24 Kaatham, a film with an intriguing title, but which made sense after seeing the initial promo and the first look pictures.
Before the film released I did feel that the makers were taking a risk by releasing it on a Sunday (September 15th) while some of the other Onam releases had chosen Thursday, Friday and Saturday as the release day to enable the benefit of the weekend. But it was heartening to know that Fox Star was going to distribute the film in the rest of India except Kerala, something which reinforced faith both in the film and the people behind the same. And sure enough Fox Star got their act right by taking the film to various cities across India just 5 days after the release in India, backed by some decent publicity for the same as well.
Harikrishnan (Fahadh Faasil) is a techie and a total geek of sorts who suffers from an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). He is an introvert by choice unlike the rest of his family comprising of his father (Thalaivaasal Vijay) who is enjoying his retired life, his lawyer mother (Geetha) and his Radio Jockey brother (Sreenath Bhasi), who is the opposite of Hari in every way possible. At work Hari is respected by his superior (Jinu Jose) and the company’s U.S head office due to the quality of his work while his own colleagues can’t stand the sight of him. Due to his OCD and associated fear of travelling, Hari always rebuffs the opportunity to move to the U.S or travel anywhere locally too on work. However on one particular occasion he is reluctantly forced to travel to Thiruvananthapuram for a conference and unfortunately that happens to be a ‘harthal’ day. Unfortunately in the middle of the night he is forced to get down at Paravur station along with Gopalan (Nedumudi Venu), a veteran Communist leader and Narayani (Swati Reddy), a social worker with an NGO.
Due to the turn of events Hari decides to help Gopalan reach his home in Kozhikode, where his wife is lying critically ill. Thus begins the strange journey across the state for Hari along with Narayani and Gopalan where they come across various characters and go through various experiences. In particular for Hari the journey turns out to be liberating in its own unique way. While it’s not usual to come across ‘road movies’ these days with the most recent being Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi (incidentally produced by the same banner- E 4 Enterainment), it’s good to see that the premise here is pretty simple and yet it works and that’s the beauty of Anil Radhakrishnan Menon’s treatment to the subject.
Many years ago as a child I had a hygiene fetish, be it at home or especially outside. This would get compounded especially while travelling and there would be a serious attempt to get to wash my hands and get it clean (wish there were hand sanitizers then 🙂 ). I don’t remember how exactly it started or how it tapered down eventually, maybe it was part of my normal growing up process. But seeing Hari go through the same moments (albeit in a far more serious proportion) brought a smile to my face as it made me feel nostalgic automatically. I am sure I am not the only person who would probably feel the personal connect while watching the movie 🙂 . The film also maintains a wonderful balance between the old World charm of Kerala along with the trappings of modernism that is being witnessed in God’s Own Country as well.
Jayesh Nair’s visuals compliment the journey undertaken by the trio wonderfully and adds to the finesse of the film. The film also mocks the constant call for harthals, strikes & bandhs which has been crippling the state for ages. But Anil Radhakrishnan Menon has ensured that the same is carried out in a lighter vein and without hurting the sentiments of anyone concerned, a good way to address the issue. Hari, Narayani and Gopalan end up meeting up with some interesting characters along their journey, each one of them in their own ways silently influencing Hari in particular. Premgi Amaran as Byomkesh, the Tamilian nomad who doesn’t know the significance of his own name and married to a Kutchi lady, is subdued for a change. Chemban Vinod as the Gulf returned guy on his way to meet his new born baby is also good. The songs by Rex Vijayan and Govind Menon do not hinder the narrative and smoothly blend into it in fact.
‘Thanaro’ is a nice lilting track composed by Rex Vijayan and sung admirably by Sreenath Bhasi, the lyrics by Engandiyoor Chandrasekharan adding weight to the song. ‘Harthal Punk’ composed by Govind Menon and sung by him along with Aneesh Krishnan (lyrics by Rafeeq Ahamed) is another good track from the film. Swati Reddy teams up with Fahadh Faasil once again this year after the successful ‘Amen’ and this time it’s a totally different character which she pulls it off convincingly. Nedumudi Venu as Gopalan is perfect and once again demonstrates that he is one of the best actors this industry has produced over the last few decades. The scene towards the end when he reaches his home is to be seen to believe, Nedumudi Venu doesn’t speak a single word & yet more than conveys his emotions wonderfully by just being there in front of us, a hallmark of a great actor.
Eventually the film works primarily due to the presence of Fahadh Faasil. As Hari he’s completely in control and the character is unlike anything he has played in his career so far. It’s really heartening to see him not fall trap to any particular image and experiment with characters. The next time someone brings about the topic of OCD I’m sure one would think of Hari automatically and that shows the power of the character written by Anil Radhakrishnan Menon & the performance of Fahadh to go along with it. The transition that Hari undergoes at the end is also portrayed effectively by him and it’s actually a pleasure watching him in the film. Anil Radhakrishnan Menon makes a convincing entry to feature films with North 24 Kaatham. The film is just about the right length (around 125 minutes) and there’s hardly any dull moment in the film, a hall mark of an engaging film for sure.
While the current new wave being seen in Malayalam Cinema is producing a mix of some very good, some decent and some outright bad films, it’s nice to see people like C.V.Sarathi and his team at E 4 Entertainment support films like Annayum Rasoolum (they distributed it), Neelakakasham Pachakal Chuvannna Bhoomi and now North 24 Kaatham. It’s hard to pick out any problems with a film as simple and charming as North 24 Kaatham and doing so would merely appear an academic exercise of sorts. Largely a fun film for the entire family, this one is a film with a heart. Go watch this interesting journey, you might just enjoy it.