Film: SONYLIV 2018: Everybody is a Hero
Director: Jude Anthany Joseph
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Kunchacko Boban, Asif Ali, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Narain Lal, Sudheesh, Aju Varghese, Kalaiyarasan, Harikrishnan and Tanvi Ram
Hell hath no fury than nature unleashed, if not scorned. In the face of indefatigable human spirit, nature’s fury may not change its course. But it can certainly be countered and the devastation that it brings in its wake can be controlled, at least in terms of the human toll. ‘2018: Everyone Is A Hero’, India’s official entry to the Oscars, recreates the havoc wreaked by floods in Kerala that year. The film is a befitting ode to humanity that lives among unsung heroes. After it was released on May 5, it went on to become the highest grossing Malayalam film of all time. Available on SonyLiv in Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu, with a runtime of two hours and 28 minutes, it is as much a disaster film as a human drama.
With its tagline ‘everyone is a hero’, it takes quite a while to set up its key characters. There is the Good Samaritan Anoop (Tovino Thomas), who has quit the Army and now wants to work in Dubai; a disgruntled truck driver, Sethupathi (Kalaiyarasan), from Madurai who is involved in nefarious activities; a tourist cabbie (Aju Varghese) who is trying to make some money by taking tourists from Poland around Kerala; a family of fishermen whose younger son Nixon (Asif Ali) nurses an ambition of becoming a model. What binds these disparate individuals together is their ordinariness. They are common people, going about their lives in the most commonplace fashion, unmindful of what the future holds.
Rains are very much an integral part of this coastal state. But what happens when the rain gods turn angry? It is at this point that the narrative truly picks momentum. Lives are at stake, people have to be moved to relief camps and the fishermen community, especially the Mathachan family, rises to the occasion like true heroes do.
Director Jude Anthany Joseph builds up panic with so much palpable tension that you are not only involved in the proceedings, but actually are on tenterhooks at more than one moment. Will the blind man be saved, the pregnant woman airlifted? Can the family of three, including a child with special needs, be able to escape as the water level rises and they are hanging on to a rod in their house? Through individual stories, the director, who is also the co-writer along with Akhil P Dharmajan, creates the big picture. Camera work in the hands of cinematographer Akhil George with the right VFX effects possesses enough power to take you to the heart of this catastrophe. The story, of course, is all heart.
If the 2018 calamity hits home, what strikes with greater impact is compassion. That adversity brings out the best among people is evident in more than one tale of valiant gestures, and small ones too. Complexity and subtlety may not be the film’s strong points, but it has enough emotions to make it a stirring experience.
Much is on expected lines except the twist around Anoop. Indeed, though everyone is a hero here, Thomas as Anoop is certainly more heroic than others. Thomas of Netflix superhero film ‘Minnal Murali’ fame is both restrained and endearing as the man only too eager to help even at great risk to his life. The film does keep us guessing about his fate.
Surprisingly, though the subplot involving the Polish nationals is not elucidated well, the scene of their departure at a Kerala airport is touching. Indeed, much is poignant in the film, the real triumph of which lies in how it does not indulge in a blame-game. But for one argument involving the opening of dam gates, no one is painted in dark shades. Instead of pointing fingers, it gives a thumbs-up to the courage of brave men. Women don’t have much to add, even though in the beginning we meet news anchor Noora (Aparna Balamurali).
It’s a rare film that has gravitas and a feel-good tenor despite the grave backdrop and celebrates the collective power of a community. No wonder it was hailed as the real Kerala story and not the controversial Hindi film ‘The Kerala Story’. For those who missed ‘2018’ in theatres where it minted Rs 200 crore worldwide, it certainly calls for viewing, especially in the light of the fact that it could create a buzz at the Oscars.
Whether the emphatic and celebratory statement of resilience will emerge as a hero at the Academy Awards, well, we are keeping our fingers crossed.