Against all odds Image Credit: Supplied

Athma Kadha

Cast Sreenivasan, Sharbani Mukherjee, Jagathy Sreekumar

Director Premlal

Rating G

Often Malayalam cinema is firmly rooted in reality. There is little flab and hardly any pretension. Premlal's directorial debut, Athma Kadha, set in the lush, hilly Kerala countryside, is a tragic tale of Kochubaby (played with lovely conviction by Sreenivasan, but who else), who loses his sight in his early teens. His mother encourages him to be self-dependent. We see him reach out for his pot of gruel in what appears to be his first lessons in a world that has gone frighteningly dark.

Later, as a man, Kochubaby works in a candle factory where he meets Marykutty (Mukherjee) who is also visually impaired. They get married and have a daughter, Lillykutty (Shafna), who aspires to be a pilot. It is at this point that Premlal introduces the dramatic curve, laced with the darkest of misfortunes.

Even though a motley group of characters, for example, the colourful local priest (played splendidly by Sreekumar) - whose passion is arthouse films - try and light up the couple's existence Athma Kadha is depressing in some ways. Yes, the narrative tries hard to keep our attention focused on the indomitable, never-say-die spirit but, then, the canvas ultimately offers very little light. It's not always easy to find a streak of positive things in the middle of all this negativity. If only Premlal had balanced his story and screenplay with a bit of bright moments, Athma Kadha could have attracted a little more acclaim.

Admittedly, in defence, one must concede that it has some marvellous performances. Mukherjee mirrors the pathos of impending doom through an extraordinarily expressive face.