It is a shocking sight for Lakshmi (Shanthi Krishna) when she walks into her house to find her three brothers and sister-in-law dead under unnatural circumstances. Strangely, her autistic niece Nitya is sitting in a corner playing with string.
Switching between the past and the present, debutant director Vivek narrates psychological thriller ‘Athiran’.
The film’s strength lies in the staging of the story with idyllic visuals captured brilliantly by cinematographer Anu Moothedath. Right from the opening scene, there is drama and novelty in every frame.
Viewers follow Dr MK Nair (Fahad Faasil), a psychiatrist from Trivandrum Medical College, on his journey. Nair arrives at a picturesque mansion reminiscent of the Victorian age, standing isolated and an enigma in the midst of a verdant region.
This is a home for the mentally afflicted managed by Dr Benjamin Diaz (Atul Kulkarni). Dr Nair has been deputed to probe into Dr Benjamin’s treatment of his patients. Despite the implicit beauty of the surroundings and the classically decorated interiors there is a strange air about this hospital, which caters to the very rich who have abandoned their family members here.
Dr Nair’s investigation reveals that besides the five patients listed in the register, there is a young autistic woman Nitya (Sai Pallavi) bound in chains and confined in a dark room. It now becomes his mission to free Nitya.
The cast includes a host of talent — Leona Lishoy playing a patient who walks around in a nun’s habit and speaks verses from the Bible; Kerala state awardees Sudev Nair as a young man in love with Nitya, and Surabhi Lakshmi as a patient who is concerned about Nitya.
The story belongs to Faasil and Pallavi. This is a role Faasil can sleep walk into and Pallavi’s Nitya is a complete contrast to her debut role as Malar from ‘Premam.’
With hardly any dialogues, Pallavi brings to the fore an autistic woman’s plight and she does it without going overboard.
Renji Panicker as Nitya’s father brings poignant moments.
Vivek, who earlier worked as a creative producer with MTV India and Walt Disney, has not assisted any director nor attended any film school but shows promise on his debut.
Dancing the perfect tango to his vision is cinematographer Moothedath’s frames. Sometimes bewitching viewers with nature’s moments, Moothedath takes you indoors into Dr Benjamin’s mansion with its elegant interiors — a bull head staring from the wall while a black cat with glowing eyes silently watches Dr Nair being ushered in. Great attention has gone into detailing every scene.
Ghibran’s music adds to the sense of foreboding in the story — soft and ominous especially in the night sequences. Some loose ends mar ‘Athiran’ from becoming a much better film. It’s the reveal in the climax that holds up ‘Athiran’ as an interesting thriller.
Don’t miss it!
‘Athiran’ releases in the UAE on April 24.