Ever seen a movie that looks like a simple video call, but one you can't take your eyes off, even for a second? This simplistic description is not enough to convey the landmark cinema that is the Mahesh Narayanan-Fahad Fazilduo's latest outing: 'C U Soon'. The experimental film was shot entirely indoors during the COVID-19 lockdown period and is a symbol of the will power and innovative nature of the Malayalam film industry. The same COVID-19 virus played the villain in real life as the lockdown delayed the release of Maheshand Fahad's other movie 'Malik'. That 'C U Soon' was released on OTT platforms despite limitations is testament to Mahesh Narayanan's grit and his passion for cinema.
'Computer-screen films' are a rare sight in India, prompting the decision to release 'C U Soon' online, given its unique narrative style. The online release provides audiences with the ability to replay and see scenes over and over, enabling them to catch up on the technology and the internet lingo used. While the film leans towards an experimental experience, it still has all the ingredients of a commercial thriller like romance, suspense and emotion.
The film revolves around three main characters who we see through video conferencing. The film begins with Jimmy Kurian (Roshan Mathew), a bank worker in Dubai, meeting Anu Sebastian (Darshana Rajendran) through an online dating app. They fall in love online and Jimmy proposes to her in the virtual presence of his mother Mary (Mala Parvathi), who lives in the United States. Maryentrusts Kevin Thomas (Fahad Fazil), a relative and cybersecurity expert, to investigate Anu. With a good report from Kevin, his mother agrees to the marriage. Jimmy and Anu move in together due to certain events. Things change when Anu disappears a week later. Jimmy is the prime suspect and is taken into police custody. The film progresses through Kevin's investigation to find out what happened to Anu and help Jimmy.
With the help of iPhone, Panasonic 4K camera and GoPro, Mahesh Narayanan has been able to overcome the visual limitations of filming, in addition to the core script. Mahesh has displayed writing skills that captivate the audience with mystery and emotion. The film opens up new avenues of writing and directing, and new technologies in editing. The film also opens up the possibility of virtual cinematography, which is mainly used in animated films. Virtual cinematography is handled by Mahesh himself.
Most of the time, the film travels through the selfie frames of the characters. So Fahad, Roshan and Darshan have done their duty to make it seem as if they are talking to the audience through a video call. Fahad was able to easily adapt to his role conveying the pressures of an IT professional, to a man's sentiment and a parent's vigilance. Darshana Rajendran also managed to portray what may be the best role of her career beautifully. All the situations that Anu has to face, such as love, helplessness and survival against the odds, are excellently depicted. Roshan Mathew, who has been lauded for his performances in 'Moothon' and 'Kappela' does justice to his meaty role. Mala Parvathi, Saiju Kurup, Kottayam Ramesh and Amalda are also in their cast. The film is produced by Fahad Fazil and Nazriya Naseem. Sabin is the cinematographer.
The film draws inspiration from 'Searching' which depicts the struggle of a man trying to find his lost daughter. However, the director has not let 'C U Soon' become a mere copy and so it stands on its own quite well. 'Searching', 'Unfriended' and 'Love Sex and Dhoka' have opened up new avenues of possibilities for Malayalam cinema by following the innovative narrative style.
(This is review was originally published in Madhyamam Malayalam version and Translated by Anjana Jayakrishnan)