Recently I happened to see director English director Christopher Petit’s Radio On (1979), an obscure piece of avant-garde filmmaking that went against the conventional, tried-and-tested ways of doing things. It’s a film that was all about the mood—hypnotic, laidback and largely wordless, with an assortment of classic tracks making up its soundtrack. It luxuriated in its own style. I wondered why we don’t see films like this in Malayalam. Of course, the obvious answer is no one would dare to do such an experiment here, but filmmaker Prem Sankar comes close. Though not as radical as Radio On, Prem’s maiden film, which traversed the festival circuit four years ago, is impressively bold in its filmmaking choices. It’s finally getting a premiere on Neestream, Cave and Saina Play, and once you see it, you will know why it took such a long time to find a home.
As the title suggests, Randu Per revolves mainly around its two central characters. Karun (Basil Paulose) is a filmmaker who gets kicked out of his girlfriend’s residence without any explanation. This episode is embarrassing for him because she broke up through a Post-It note. The lack of a reason bothers him. Ria (Santhy Balachandran), too, has just gotten out of a relationship. They also have another thing in common: they both quit their jobs just a few hours ago.
At a certain point in Randu Per, Karun and Ria talk about the amount of time taken by men and women to get over a breakup. She says it’s possible to move on in just two hours. He wonders if men can achieve the same. It doesn’t take very long for him to prove by example when he does an extreme favour for her despite having met her only a few hours back. But the two have gotten so comfortably close in such a short time—the film takes place over an entire night —that it makes sense logically. We buy their chemistry, the warmth they share. Any other guy wouldn’t react this way, but Karun does, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Perhaps the answer lies in its noir roots. Take a look at how the male protagonists react in Out of the Past or Double Indemnity, and you see that Karun isn’t acting any different. The only difference is he is just a regular guy living in Bengaluru. There is a lot of tension underneath its surface, but Randu Per moves so casually amidst the multitude of chaotic emotions. In one scene, Karun’s cycle, attached to his car, gets stolen; but he doesn’t make a big deal. He doesn’t suddenly start acting like the main character from Bicycle Thieves. He has a car already!
Randu Per is replete with conversations from beginning to end. I loved how authentic these conversations sounded. They sound like people you meet daily. They are not discussing rocket science; they are talking about mundane stuff from their past and present—some of the things said by Ria seem contradictory. But there is a rare freshness to these dialogues that keeps you watching.
Karun and Ria, who sometimes converse in English, sound like an urban couple living in any metropolitan city. We also get cameos from Suraj Venjaramoodu and Alencier Ley Lopez, but their presence doesn’t add any significance. However, I liked the part where Sunil Sukhadha appears as the proprietor of a local restaurant frequented by Karun and Ria.
The film is not in a hurry to get to its destination. It makes us feel as though we are in the car with the characters. It also makes unusual lensing choices like, say, having the vantage point occasionally shift between Karun’s point-of-view to stationary shots of the two characters in the car. At nowhere does it seem like a gimmick. It contributes to the overall mood. There is an explanation from Karun himself: he just decided to have multiple miniature cameras, including his phone, running inside the car to document the events of this post-breakup day. One woman who had earlier gotten in his car finds it strange. Ria, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind these things.
I’m glad that someone dared to do this film. I hope it reaches many eyeballs. I hope it encourages young aspiring filmmakers to expand their imagination and explore similarly twisted and subversive ideas instead of thinking within the confines of some narrow-minded filmmaking rulebook.
Film: Randu Per
Director: Prem Sankar
Cast: Basil Paulose, Santhy Balachandran
Streaming on: Neestream, Cave, Saina Play, Koode