There are moments in Adithattu where one can’t easily comprehend what some of the characters are saying, and I don’t mean this in a negative way because the approach made perfect sense only later. Since we are being plunged directly into an episode in the lives of a group of fishermen undertaking a fishing trip that could potentially improve their financial situation, the remaining intricacies take a while to crystallise. I liked how the film doesn’t rely on spoonfeeding to tell us what happened before or why. Things are just what they are. You know how you barge into a group meeting, and despite not catching what someone said at the beginning, everything becomes clear to you after a point? Adithattu is something like that.
Adithattu evoked in me the character-driven maritime adventures of author Joseph Conrad. He gave us a sense of a character’s state of mind and ulterior motives. While depicting a fishing trip that lasts a few days, the film takes us through the crew members’ habits—what they eat, how they eat, their sleeping habits, the gravity of their trials and tribulations, and so on. I also mention Conrad taking into account how some of his stories are about how the worst side of his characters comes out in the face of alienation and strange encounters in foreign territory. Adithattu’s strangeness comes from the sole reason that 99 per cent of the film takes place at sea and the ‘trapped’ sensation felt by one of the main characters.
The film initially leads you to believe that its characters are setting out for a treasure hunt, the ‘treasure’ here being a massive catch. But this trip later reveals a dual purpose. The characters let out, little by little, that this trip is happening in the aftermath of a possible murder disguised as a suicide.
When the film opens with Ambross (Shine Tom Chacko) during the early hours of dawn, washing off from his hand what appears to be small traces of blood, we assume something terrible has happened. Is Ambross the perpetrator? When Marcos (Sunny Wayne), a supposed friend of Ambross, joins the trip, the dynamics of the group begin to shift for the worse. A sense of something being amiss pervades the film. Ambross and Marcos don’t strike us as the sort that neither makes their companions nor us comfortable.
Adithattu would’ve looked like a pointless film if it had been only about a group of men catching fish. But it becomes more interesting when it takes on the nature of a murder mystery when Ambross begins to ask questions about the abovementioned death. He wants to know who was with the deceased and what happened after. But Ambross isn’t a saint; he has a criminal record, and his presence sows the seeds of doubt in everyone. In the meantime, Marcos does some investigating of his own, raising more doubts. Who killed whom? Is there a reason behind Marcos being on board the boat with these men?
Without giving anything away, let me say that Adithattu presents Sunny and Shine at their finest, playing men who seem to conceal multiple ambiguities.
You know that thing I said earlier about some adventures bringing out the ugly side of some men? There is a point towards the end of the film where things get very nasty, and people get badly hurt. And the film doesn’t hold back when it comes to cuss words—there is a healthy serving of those for viewers who, like me, are tired of hearing ‘sanitised’ dialogues all the time and would prefer to see people talking just as they do in real life. The film’s closing moments bring forth some revelations, including an explanation for the opening scene with Shine. After that, we see the preceding events in a new light.
Everything is captured with much efficiency by cinematographer Pappinu, who showcases some of the most stunning widescreen sea photography ever put to film while employing minimal and available lighting to keep the overall experience as grounded as possible.
After I came out of the film, I told a friend that Adithattu is like a Rajeev Ravi film not made by Rajeev Ravi. Recently, Rajeev made what I called his purest film, Kuttavum Shikshayum, which was devoid of any commercial cinema trappings that would appeal to all sections of audiences. Adithattu, too, follows a similarly gritty, mood-based, and reportage-style narrative. But Adithattu has two principal advantages: a nail-biting third act and a 90-min duration.
Director: Jijo Anthony
Cast: Shine Tom Chacko, Sunny Wayne, Jayapalan, Prasanth Alexander