Cast: Nithya Menen, Vijay Sethupathi, Indrajith Sukumar
At the end of a tiring day, when we go back home and relax just to watch the headlines of the day, we often hear leading journalists talk about the freedom of speech and expression. While we were taught about this Article 19(1)(a), promised to us as a fundamental right through our Constitution, time and again, we often forget how important such a right is for us. The movie 19(1)(a), directed by Indhu V S tried to communicate something to us about this fundamental right, but did not really succeed in doing so.
Starring Nithya Menen and Vijay Sethupathi in lead roles, the movie revolves around the former’s character, who does not have a name in the film. She runs her father’s old Xerox shop and leads an extremely normal life. However, her life changes when a revolutionary writer leaves the manuscript of his unpublished novel with her. What happens next forms the rest of the story.
Vijay Sethupathi plays the role of the revolutionary writer and is called Gauri Shankar in the film. The name felt like a reference to the journalist turned activist Gauri Lankesh, who was assassinated for expressing her opinion against right wing extremism. This film also takes a similar turn, and therefore it makes us feel like the director took a real-life example to make a film.
The problem however is that the film is extremely slow. It takes the whole first half and more to set the premise. Once the premise is set, we wonder what the conflict resolution would be. But, it rather moves as a montage-like memorial for the character Gauri Shankar, as Nithya Menen uncovers his story. Till the very end, we are not given an answer as to what the film tried to convey.
When a film is based on a fundamental right provided by the Constitution it is generally expected to be about the curtailment of the right. Differing to this cliche portrayal, this movie talks about how this fundamental right can become even a threat to life. Yes, the Constitution promises this, but politicians and powerful people may try to steal it from you. End of the day, it is about whether you choose to sacrifice your personal safety and stand and fight for what you believe in with conviction. This message is established pretty well by the film.
Although the film has strong casting including Nithya Menen, Vijay Sethupathi and Indrajith Sukumaran, the film fails to hook the audience because it lacks lustre. 20 minutes into the film, it leaves you wondering what this movie is all about and if it is ever going to catch up speed. The ending is blank and does not justify any part of what the film tried to communicate.
The cinematography is worth a mention, as some camera angles are really amusing. For example, in a scene where a character talks against people who cut trees, Nithya Menen looks up at a tree under which she’s standing. There, the camera angle focuses on her in the shade of the tree and gives the effect of the tree looking back at her. There are quite a few such important shots along the journey of the film.
As the film is set in simple set-ups and storylines, there is not much of a costume design. Yet, Nithya Menen’s looks are simple and elegant and trail the life of a girl who has a mundane job to do everyday. The background score and music, composed by Govind Vasantha are also complementary to the slow-moving texture of the film. It acts as a mourning to the loss that Nithya Menen faces in the film.
On the whole, films like these that speak about our rights are important. But we need them to actually make meaning and pass on a message, rather than just be a documentary-ish portrayal of the idea. The film doesn’t impress the audience, and because it is an OTT release, people will get disinterested even sooner. So, this film could definitely have had a better screenplay, given that there was a powerful cast to back it up.
Verdict: Watch the movie only if you are a fan of slow-moving films!