Back after a brief hiatus - was in Kerala for a vacation, and more importantly, for my sister's wedding. It was almost more hectic than regular office hours, but then that's another story. A couple of days before returning, I landed up at the familiar doorstep of Empire Videos at Poothole, and successfully procured a couple of Padmarajan DVDs. Its been a long time since this post, and I'd decided to re-visit some of these masterpieces anyway - especially the ones I haven't seen in a long time.
Aparan (The Other) narrates the rather sinister story of Vishwan (debutante Jayaram), who's forced to come to terms with the fact that he has an unsavory lookalike. He comes to know of this in an unexpected manner, when he is attacked by two strangers at a hotel. The police refuse to buy his explanation that he's an innocent bystander, and Vishwan is hauled off the nearest police station. By sheer chance, the inspector in charge happens to be an old friend (Mukesh), and Vishwan is released. After some more unpleasant incidents that result in Vishwan losing his job, he is forced to seek out his so-called 'twin' to confront his nemesis. Little does he know, though, what fate has in store for him.
As usual, Padmarajan writes an extraordinary screenplay . Many scenes stand out - like the one where Shobhana accuses Jayaram of trying to molest her, the scene when Jayaram 'becomes' Uthaman and claims money for a murder cold-heartedly, and of course the chilling climax. Like many other screenplays by Padmarajan, this too contains several layers. One aspect to the screenplay, of course, is the age-old adage that good and evil are but two sides of the same coin. In fact, I felt that this was the central premise of the move. Despite not showing the 'other' character until the very end, his shadow hangs over the entire movie, like an undercurrent of evil. Its incredible how Padmarajan manages to bring in this 'dark' feeling without resorting to familiar devices like dark lighting, loud music etc; he achieves it nevertheless.
Another aspect to the movie is how easy the protagonist finds it to 'change' his persona to that of his lookalike, the antagonist. There's a scene here, where Jayaram tries to hang around shady localities, dress in dark colors like his lookalike, and even leer at women. I thought this could have been done much better - by the director himself, by the music director in particular (who chooses to put in some dumb rock 'n' roll music or some such crap as the BGM), and of course by Jayaram. In fact, the possibility of the scene reminded me of the 'mirror' scene in Mohanlal's Chenkol (The Staff); Mohanlal expresses, almost magically, both the demons in his mind that are threatening to break free, and the sheer helplessness as he feels his life succumbing to fate once again (its truly a magical scene, and one of my favorite Mohanlal scenes, ranking right up there along with the 'murder' scene in Sadayam - With Mercy). Of course, Mohanlal has forgotten more about acting than Jayaram ever dreamt of, so that's no just comparison. However, I have to admit, this was one of the scenes in the movie that disappointed me. The blurring of the lines between good and evil could have more imaginatively done, IMHO.
Note: Spoilers below.
But Padmarajan more than makes it up with a great, great climax. With the antagonist dead, Vishwan is now free of his nemesis, his lookalike. However, he chooses to live the life of his 'other, abandoning his life until now. His motivations are unclear - is it because he fears that Uthaman's accomplices will hunt him down? If so, why does he then smile pityingly at the burning embers of Uthaman? Does this mean that Vishwan has succumbed to the shadow of evil cast over the movie? Jayaram gets the creepy, sinister smile just right, and Padmarajan has once again succeeded in creating a haunting climax.
Performances: the movie belongs to Jayaram. In fact, it wouldn't be far fetched to say that this is the finest performance in Jayaram's career. Madhu impresses in his usual role (There's a deft director's touch applied to Madhu's character as well; one of the initial scenes shows Madhu gently flirting with a neighbor. Later, when the lookalike surfaces, Jayaram is highly suspicious of his father, especially given his nature). All the other actors are competent, but nothing to write home about. Its almost a multi-starrer though, with Mukesh, Shobhana, Parvathy, Shari, Jagathy, Innocent, Soman etc in the movie. But certainly, its Jayaram who has the meaty part here, and he makes the most out of it.
This certainly doesn't rank up there with Padmarajan's best movies like Namukku Parkkan..., Thoovanathumbikal etc. However, the deft touch of Pappettan's baton is evident throughout the movie, and that touch has seldom produced an outright bad movie. Aparan is well worth more than one watch just to analyze, admire and fondly remember, albeit with a bit of sadness, the famous Padmarajan touch.