The fate that would befall the protagonist of Chattambi is known to us right from the opening shot of Kariah’s (Sreenath Bhasi) bloodied body. It raises intriguing questions about the chain of events that might have led to his violent death. The voices from people around the locality tell us that he had it coming for quite some time, while a few others sound relieved that he is finally gone. A nun, who seems to have been close to his family, tells us that the larger society never understood him properly.
This sets up the possibility that he might have had some redeeming qualities after all, and the background story of how Kariah began to have that violent streak also adds to these expectations. Chattambi then rewinds back to events from a few months back, and progressively comes closer to the day of his death. Yet, even on his last day, the one thing that’s missing is that redeeming quality, as he truly turns out to be a particularly rough and unlikeable character.
Abhilash S. Kumar’s directorial debut Chattambi, scripted by Alex Joseph and based on a story by Don Palathara, is about this man and the society around him. They comprise those who use his villainy for their ends and the ones who loathe him, often being victims of his cruelty. Kariah is one of the two henchmen working for the local moneylender John Muttattil (Chemban Vinod). Although John protects him from the police every time he gets into trouble, there is a boiling rage within him at the way he is being looked down upon by his boss. It is only a matter of time before it all bursts out in the open.
The setting in the high ranges lends itself to the sombre mood of the film, with the controlled pace of the narrative adding to it. Despite starting the proceedings with the protagonist’s murder, the film never lays all the cards on the table. Going by the number of people he has rubbed the wrong way, one does not easily get to guess who might have done the act, although the film is not really about this mystery at all. It is rather focussed on some deep character studies. John’s wife Cicily (Grace Antony) is the most intriguing of them all, with her silent rage at her husband’s ways.
On many an occasion, with some intelligent staging of the scenes, the director achieves the intended effect without showing us all the unpleasant details. In one such sequence, Kariah, the ruthless recovery agent, is shown walking into a defaulter’s house, while his weak-minded companion Baby (Binu Pappu) stays outside. For the entire time, the camera stays with Baby, as we listen to the screams of men and women from inside the house. The scene ends with Kariah walking out and handing over a gold chain to Baby, who silently places it inside the jeep, in a mechanical motion, as if he has grown used to it all.
However, the film leaves one with a feeling that the protagonist’s character could have been developed further, as some of the reasons for his uncontrollable rage are left unexplained. So is the wish for revenge against his boss. Chattambi is a well-crafted work that unhurriedly reveals a violent man’s last days.
Chattambi is currently running in theatres