Meera (Nivedhithaa Satish), a young woman from the city, travels to Aappanoor village to visit her grandmother. The jeans and T-shirt clad woman, smoking a cigarette, is clearly out of place in this nondescript village where time stands still.
Finding her grandmother’s house seems an impossible task, and after a few hiccups, Meera is eventually escorted to Krishnaveni, who is poised at the house of Solamuthu, a folk artist now lying dead. Krishnaveni, you see, is waiting for make-up artist Kuberan (Avinash Raghudevan) to arrive, before performing oppari — the traditional practice of lamenting the dead with a song.
Debutante director Anand Ravichandran reminds us of the ancient practice of celebrating death, where the deceased are dressed up made to sit in a chair for visitors to pay their respects. While delving into this fading practice, Ravichandran weaves in a tale about a grand-daughter finding her roots and making peace with her grandmother. He wins hearts with a story told without any frills, but marked with a realism that is fresh.
The film’s strengths lie in the crisp writing that makes it so colloquial, along with right casting, good performances, attention to detail and a camera that indulges in the beauty of Aappanoor. The humour laden dialogues bring a smile even in the face of a death.
Satish who was brilliant in her last film ‘Sillukarupatti’ proves her acting chops again. Her Meera is unlike Madhu of ‘Sillukarupatti.’ Wearing a perpetual frown, Meera is grappling with the struggles in her life. Her parents are dead and her grandmother is the only one now to call family. However, she relates to her through memories shared by her mother, who did not paint the old woman with fondness. Satish gives a balanced performance, capturing Meera’s different moods-her rudeness and outspoken behaviour and the honesty that lies underneath this hard exterior.
Srilekha Rajendran as the caustic tongued Krishnaveni is pitch perfect. Another actress who leaves a mark is Gabrella Sellus who plays Amudha. She delivers her lines with ease and matches pace with Satish. The friendship that Amudha and Meera share is beautiful.
The story is further elevated by Manikantan Krishnamachary’s camerawork, which lingers on to let viewers soak in the ambience. There is a beautiful scene with Meera and Krishnaveni sitting in an open field, when Meera asks Krishnaveni to accompany her back to the city that stays with you long after the film wraps up.
Another standout moment is between Kuberan and his assistant Sangudeva who are in conversation while attending nature’s calls early morning. It is shot in the dark since Aappannoor has no electricity so viewers only hear their voices.
Director Ravichandran treats Kuberan’s profession as a make-up artist of the dead with a kind of respect that is admirable. Kuberan is following in his family tradition and is proud of his work. In fact, he holds it in higher esteem than that of Meera’s job as a make-up artiste in cinema.
Without being pretentious, ‘Sethum Aayiram Pon’ tells a story that is earnest and sincere. Ravichandran shows promise with his first film and will go a long way.
Don’t miss it!
‘Sethum Aayiram Pon’ is currently streaming on Netflix