In March 2020, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for three weeks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial few days, when the pandemic was wreaking havoc in North India, most Keralites were unaware or perhaps ignorant of the impending danger. They were more distressed with not being allowed to play football or gather for local festivals. The unavailability of alcohol worsened their worries. Known for their undying love for alcohol, Malayalis turned to illegal home-brewing to quench their thirst for a peg. Hoping to get tipsy, some even gobbled sanitisers and shaving lotions.
In his debut film, director CC trains his lens on a bunch of such desperate drunkards in Aanathadam, a remote village located between Irinjalakuda and Chalakkudy—two regions that register record liquor sales every year. Most of the men in the village are heavy-drinkers and they take pride in it. It is this pride that forces the protagonist Vinu (Lukman), a loafer, to somehow arrange 30 litres of alcohol to serve at his sister’s wedding. After some unexpected events, these 30 litres become the cynosure of all eyes.
Sujai Mohanraj’s writing is basic and bereft of any lofty ambitions. Not for once does the film take a serious turn or shed light on the scary side of the pandemic. The makers also don’t intend to pass any message against alcoholism as is evident from the fact that none of the main characters go through any sort of transformation. However, it doesn’t mean that the film is engaging throughout. While Vinu and his 30 litres of Dhavan are the key focus, there are also a couple of parallel tracks involving a local goon’s alcohol-addicted brother, and the search for a miscreant who vandalises the police’s drone camera. The latter, especially, is a shoddily written track that gets boringly redundant after a point.
Lukman, sans the typical ‘hero’ looks or body language, comes across as a relatable guy-next-door, and that has been one of the reasons for his success lately. This persona helps him in Corona Dhavan as well, as he eases through the role. The usually dependable Sreenath Bhasi, however, is reduced to a one-note character. Interestingly, the film is salvaged largely by its supporting actors who make even the not-so-funny situations work. For example, Johny Antony plays a strict excise officer named Karikku Sathyan. It is a loud, caricaturish character, but Johny Antony is effective with his hilarious dialogue delivery. Sarath Sabha, Bitto Davis and the old actor who played the role of Pappan also take care of the occasional laughs.
Corona Dhavan is not a film where you pay attention to the themes explored or the development of character arcs. But some of its issues are too glaring to ignore. It was disappointing to see the return of the theppukari template, even when the woman’s choice here seemed completely justifiable. Seema Vijayan, who plays Vinu’s mother, seemed to have spent more days on dubbing than acting. In the portions shot inside the house, she is hardly seen anywhere, but her voice is a constant presence. Probably she took social distancing quite seriously.
Film: Corona Dhavan
Cast: Lukman, Sreenath Bhasi, Johny Antony, Sarath Sabha
Rating: 2.5/5 stars