‘Ottamuri Velicham’ (Light in the Room), directed by Rahul Riji Nair, won four Kerala state awards this year — Best Film, Best Editing, Best Actress and Second Best Supporting Actress. Now, the off-beat story finds an audience online.
Light carries a positive connotation, but the light glowing in Sudha’s bedroom is an intrusion and an intrinsic part of her dark story in ‘Ottamuri Velicham’.
Chandran (Deepak Parambol) brings his new wife Sudha (Vineeta Koshy) to his home, a small dwelling on the mountains of Bonakkadu (near Trivandrum, Kerala). Separating the bedroom and the room outside is a flimsy curtain hanging over the doorway and Sudha notices that the window in her bedroom cannot be closed. She also can’t switch off the glowing light above, a crude structure made of bottles. When she asks Chandran to fix a switch to it, he retorts harshly that she had better keep her hands off the light.
If Sudha could resist Chandran’s advances on their first night together, in the subsequent nights, she realises that she has married a ruthless man who does not care for her feelings. Chandran coerces her into intercourse under the threat of physical violence.
Nair’s narration is sensitive as he delves into marital rape that takes place under the glare of a glowing lamp. But there are no unpleasant graphic visuals; Sudha’s agony is conveyed only through her screams.
Koshy and Parambol are in great form — Parambol’s psychotic Chandran is completely detestable, while Koshy’s intense performance makes you feel the dread she goes through every night when Chandran returns home. Koshy won the Special Jury award for her role.
Pauly Valsan plays Sudha’s mother-in-law, one who empathises with her trauma but is helpless. Valsan won the Second Best Actress award.
Cinematographer Luke Jose’s frames are spectacular. The stillness of the night seen through the open window lends an eerie feeling. Capturing the wilderness, the camera follows Sudha as she tries to escape, scrambling down the mountain side lined with thorny bushes and wading through gushing streams, totally clueless about the path ahead or the way out of the jungle. The scenes stay with you for long.
‘Ottamuri Velicham’ is Nair’s debut film and is now streaming online. His second film, ‘Dakini’, a comic caper, released in October.