'Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hrudayahariyaya Pranayakadha': An aesthetically rich satire that bites off more than it can chew

Like in his previous film, SSHP also features the director in a cheeky cameo appearance, here at the beginning, as an auto driver who brings Sureshan just before the funeral rites begin.
A poster of the film 'Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hrudayahariyaya Pranayakadha'
A poster of the film 'Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hrudayahariyaya Pranayakadha'

After a short prologue, Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hrudayahariyaya Pranayakadha (SSHP) opens with a sequence involving the natural death of an elderly woman, which ultimately makes way for one of the film’s titular protagonists, Sureshan, to return to his roots. Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s quintessential quirkiness in presenting satire is on full display here, with the dead woman’s family feeling anything but grief. Interestingly, this is quite reminiscent of how the director’s debut film, Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 (2019), begins with Rajesh Madhavan’s character performing the last rites for his father, who is presumed to be dead.

Like in his previous film, SSHP also features the director in a cheeky cameo appearance, here at the beginning, as an auto driver who brings Sureshan just before the funeral rites begin. As Sureshan starts weeping upon seeing his deceased grandmother, the auto driver asks him the fare with a straight face, “Your total loss is just 3,450.” The film contains many such brazen English lines throughout, delivered by its large rural ensemble, and the deadpan humour hits the right notes.

Sureshan and Sumalatha’s sweet-yet-brief love story was one of the major attractions of the director’s previous film, Nna Thaan Case Kodu (NTCK). As a spin-off intended to extrapolate the backstory of the celebrated couple, SSHP turns out to be an experimental romantic satire that feels tedious after a fairly engaging first hour, where the quirky treatment works to a great extent.

In one of the recent promotional interviews for the film, Ratheesh mentioned that time travel does happen in SSHP but without the help of any device or portal. Set primarily against the backdrop of amateur theatre in Payyannur, the film shifts timelines randomly on a whim. For example, characters standing outside a house in the post-2000s might find the setting suddenly changing to the 1960s when they move inside.

One could interpret these shifts as the director suggesting that the idea of love is timeless. However, the film’s overindulgence in the theatre play within the film—blurring the lines between reality and fiction—leaves the audience feeling high and dry, even if it might be alluding to Shakespeare’s famous lines, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.”

It falls short as a love story, in terms of emotional connection, something NTCK accomplished in a short time. However, SSHP works considerably well when it turns into an unabashed satire taking political jibes. The segments depicting Sumalatha’s father opposing her relationship with Sureshan effectively address caste politics and historical manipulation. At the same time, some of Ratheesh’s possibly intended metaphors are lost in translation.

To credit where it is due, SSHP is incredibly rich aesthetically, technically, and musically. The visualization of the beautiful song Premalola, composed by Dawn Vincent and sung by Sushin Shyam, stands as a testament to that. As Sureshan and Sumalatha’s elbow joints make contact, the way the visuals convey that when they are together, nothing around them matters, is masterfully shot by Sabin Uralikandy. Also, you can see the kind of time shifts mentioned above in this song itself, which is edited seamlessly by Akash Thomas. Even the art and costume departments shine brightly in making the film’s different timelines look authentic.

Similar to NTCK, SSHP can also boast a wonderful ensemble cast. Almost everyone fits the bill while adapting to Ratheesh’s idiosyncratic world. Reprising their roles as Sureshan and Sumalatha, Rajesh Madhavan and Chithra Nair do not miss a beat, even if you may not end up rooting for them in this longer narrative. As the latter’s madcap father, also a chronic alcoholic, Sudheesh steals the show with his comic timing. A performance that is perfectly loud without going overboard. Kunchacko Boban’s return as Kozhummal Rajeevan, in a brief cameo, felt like a deus ex machina.

In its totality, SSHP, which works to an extent as a satire, ultimately bites off more than it can chew as a romance.

Film: Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hrudayahariyaya Pranayakadha

Cast: Rajesh Madhavan, Chithra Nair, Kunchacko Boban, Sudheesh

Director: Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval

Rating : 3/5

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