Another day dawns for Sheela Chacko who begins her morning with a walk with friends. Returning home, she gets breakfast ready and then goes for a shower. That’s when a little doubt creeps into her mind trigerring off events in the family. The first thing she does is call up her son Kurien in London and asks him to return home soon. As the mole of suspicion grows, it turns into a mountain of reality to shatter the peace and joy in the Chacko household.
What makes Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela (Intermission in the land of crabs) a delightful watch is the honest and beautiful telling of a simple tale. With a grave issue at the centre, debutant director Althaf Salim weaves in innocent humour and a sensitivity that touches you now and then. How does the family deal with it?
The casting is pitch perfect. The detailing of characters is neat and marks out each individual apart. Chacko (Lal Sr) is the man of the house but a real mouse when it concerns his wife; Sheela (Shanthi Krishna), his wife and a college professor, reveals her innate strength and pragmatism at the most tough phase of her life; Kurien (Nivin Pauly), their son, is easy going but still grappling to find his own place; eldest daughter Mary (Srinda Arhaan), who is married to Tony (Siju Wilson) and a mother of a little girl; and Sarah (Ahaana Krishna), the baby of the family. Not to forget their grandpa suffering from Alzhiemers.
The co-writers Salim and George Kora have not neglected the peripheral characters either. Be it the compassionate Dr Saiju Varkichan (Saiju Kurup), Chacko’s dentist-buddy (Dileesh Pothan) and Rachel (Aishwarya Lakshmi) Kurien’s love interest are marvellous too.
The spontaneous performances of the entire team brings the characters alive from the story board to the screen and to linger in viewers’ minds. The film scores with their subtle acting.
The humour is innocent and clean. It’s like eavesdropping on the Chacko family and smiling to yourself — a scene in the hotel where Chacko prepares to break the grave news to his children but goofs it all up; another in the elevator where Rachel breaks it to Kurien that she is not serious about him.
It’s a poignant moment when Kurien talks about their mother to his two sisters, how she had displayed fortitude when they had to evacuate from Kuwait many years ago.
Some moments from the film reminded me of another movie by Pauly — Jacobinte Swargarajyam — especially in the bonding between the son and mother. But then Sheela Chacko and Shirley Jacob are two different women and their battles were not similar.
Pauly has produced this film and he has ensured that the focus is on the content of the film and not on his star image. Justin Verghese’s music is another plus. Mukesh Muraleedharan’s frames mostly shot indoors are beautiful.
Take a break in the land of the crabs. Sorry, I mean Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela, and with the family.