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Ullozhukku review: The undercurrents of this brilliant film that dives deep into loss to surface the truth

Christo Tomy's latest cinematic marvel, "Ullozhukku," takes audiences on an emotional journey through the Kerala floods, masterfully weaving a story of love, betrayal, and redemption.

By Paul George

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Directed and written by: Christo Tomy

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala

Music by: Sushin Shyam

Cast: Parvathy Thiruvothu, Urvashi, Arjun Radhakrishnan, Jaya Kurup, Prashanth Murali, Shebin Benson

A script that already cemented its worth at the Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Contest for scriptwriting in 2018, Christo Tomy’s career has peaked with the deep currents of his latest project, Ullozhukku.

Set in the murky moments of the Kerala floods, the script begins by wedding us along with Anju (played by Parvathy Thiruvothu) to Thomaskutty (played by Prasant Murali). From the moment they get accustomed to each other in the post-wedding shoot, the audience also begins to irk at the psychological shock that comes with this union.

The cinematography by Shehnad Jalal doesn’t shy away from making you feel uncomfortable along with the lead actors, especially Anju, as she bids her final farewell to her family. The long shots, intentful play with nature and rain, make you feel warm and cold to the bone at the same time.

With quick cuts between scenes and expertly weaving the passing of time, Christo takes the story forward as Anju is found taking care of a weak Thomaskutty whose sickness is a mystery to her too, with her taking care of his needs along with her mother-in-law Leelamma (played by Urvashi).

The title of the movie translates to ‘Undercurrents’, and the script does just that, sucking you deeper into the film with each passing second. A story that seems rather simple with humble elements packs quite the depth, with darkness looming over the characters. Emotions are evoked through tears, unsaid words, and the brilliance of 2 lead actors, Parvathy Thiruvothu and Urvashi. Their portrayal of these fictional characters seems so real that you question if you have seen them in the real world outside the confines of the movie theatre.

As her husband’s health deteriorates, the affection between Anju and her husband becomes distant. The silence grows louder and eventually dwindles to mere obligations that Anju performs as a dutiful wife as she sees him reach his end. The movie does a splendid job of ensuring you are always yearning for the final meltdown. As the rain pours and the waters reach the home’s doorstep, the relationships spiral into the depths.

With surprises still waiting in the corner, Anju connects with her old flame, who she had decided to forget as she was forced into marriage with Thomaskutty. And with their love blooming, Anju becomes pregnant. The untimely events reach its peak as Anju’s mother-in-law comes to know about her pregnancy and in complete oblivion of the truth believes it as a silver-lining when they end up having to plan Thomaskutty’s funeral.

As the rain pours down, the script rightfully falls into place giving you just the right amount of details. The flood of emotions overwhelms the characters as guilt overtakes Anju. As Anju drowns under pressure, she ends up confronting her mother-in-law and spills out the truth. Her guilt does not last long as the secret of Thomaskutty having a tumour even before marriage and her family being complicit in the union in spite of it starts eating away at the carcass of the love left between them.

As Thomaskutty’s body decays, the characters and the audience start feeling numbness creeping in. As Leelamma isn’t willing to let go of her son because he can’t be buried anywhere other than the designated place where his father lay, societal norms and the juxtapositioning of egoistical sarcasm grow roots.

The loneliness of feeling alone glimmers in Urvashi’s performance as she delivers a masterclass. Leelamma’s hopes lean on Anju as she grasps any kind of company, even after realizing the truth behind the pregnancy. Willing to sign away the property to Anju just to be a part of any remnant of feeling Thomaskutty alive through Anju, Leelamma yearns to survive the depths of loneliness.

As the stench of the broken family now spreads to those who visit the grieving home, Anju plans her escape as soon as Thomaskutty is buried. As her own family gives up hope on her, Anju finds a sliver of solace from her mother-in-law who finally comes to term with the face that Anju is after all someone who resembles her and her broken marriage that trickled down to the loneliness between Thomaskutty and Anju.

Sushin Shyam who has been on a journey of success delivers yet another compelling track to keep the audience engaged as we reach a moment of submission from Anju who bids farewell to her ex-husband with forgiveness. As her old flame awaits Anju’s escape with the hopes of gaining the property promised to her, the depth of each character grows.

Christo Tomy expertly conveys his calibre with the little moments and details you might not expect but creates a compound effect of emotions when it is revealed, and Parvathy Thiruvothu becomes the perfect vessel to convey that class.

As Anju realizes that leaving her mother-in-law to run away with her lover is set to trap her back in a never-ending chase to find the happiness she deserves, she decides to swim out of the depths of loneliness together with Leelamma. Throughout the film, no umbrella is spread out to protect the characters from the rain and the never-ending complexities of life. Still, as the drone shot pans out of the boat that takes Anju back with Leelamma, she extends an umbrella out to protect the only soul worth saving from the undercurrent.