28 March Tuesday

"Attention Please” - A Mindbending Thriller You Must Not Miss

Nirmal MadhukumarUpdated: Friday Oct 7, 2022
Through Jithin Issac Thomas, the malayalam film industry proves yet again that you can overcome the constraints of a small budget, if your vision and ideas are unique and original. In his feature film debut, the filmmaker impresses by delivering a hard hitting thriller, that is also an allegory for the marginalisation and oppression that happens within our society which often goes unnoticed. “Attention please” is precisely what the filmmaker is asking the audience to do. He cleverly uses the film to shine light on the psychological trauma and desperation that someone who has never been accepted or appreciated his whole life can feel.

Hari, who is an aspiring screenwriter, is both the protagonist and the antagonist of the film. We start off feeling sympathy for his struggles and the dismissive attitude his friends show towards him and his art. Especially because his stories are often good and he emotionally moves us with his heartfelt narrations. He comes across as a passive, submissive man who is overlooked. But one can only take so much, and to the surprise and sheer shock of the audience, he plunges into violent insanity. From this point on, the film shows us its true colours, as its true subject matter was never a struggling writer, but the countless struggles and sorrows inflicted upon a lower caste man in our society. His reality is dark, lonely and painful. Which is something alien and not relatable to the vast majority of people. If one could walk in Hari’s shoes, they would be unsurprised about why all of Hari’s stories are violent and disturbing. By the end of the film, it becomes clear that the real antagonist of the film is the reflection we see in the mirror the filmmaker holds to our face.

In a visual medium like cinema, it is not easy to hold the interest of the audience without any flash, flair and big budget spectacles. But the filmmaker manages to pull off this feat with crisp writing and well crafted dialogues. Credit also goes to all of the actors, whose performances make up the very lifeblood of the film. Their realistic performances and seemingly casual demeanour provide a brilliant contrast to the chaos that ensues later on in the film. The entire film takes place in a small house and its terrace. But the filmmaker has worked around all these constraints and turned these very limitations into his strengths. This was facilitated by the cinematographer Himal Mohan’s carefully chosen shots, which have made the screenplay come to life. Bringing much needed variety to  a limited shooting space and going close to the characters at critical points and utilising hand held shots and POV shots to make the audience feel the claustrophobia and panic felt by the characters. Another technical strongpoint of the film is its music and sound design. The music created by Arunvijay is an absolutely crucial element in making the second half of the film suspenseful and engaging. In all those scenes that primarily involve Hari’s monologue style rants and story narrations, it is Arjunvijay’s nuanced and suspenseful music that makes it even more impactful and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. During all the stories narrated by Hari throughout the film, the sound design plays a key role in making us feel and imagine the story and its gritty details. Justin Jose has crafted the sound design for these scenes masterfully. They say good editing is an invisible art, as in, the audience is so engaged in the film because of the smooth editing that it never notices the editor's craft. The editor of the film, Rohit VS Variyath, has done precisely that. All the cuts, especially in the second half where the drama peaks, are so timely and meaningful that it fully grips the hearts of the audience. 

The film ends with a flashback to earlier that day when the characters are having lunch. The point the filmmaker makes by showing us Hari’s perspective of hearing that interaction, which might have seemed insignificant to the audience, is truly brilliant as it shows us our own bias and prejudice. The casual way in which people talk about caste in the form of jokes might seem insignificant, but for someone who has faced such insults their whole life, it is a lastest wound in a series of countless ones. And Hari clearly reached a tipping point. The film ends on this strong note and a warning, that injustices in society are not to be laughed at and ignored, but instead we must take the time to deeply listen to the suffering of those around us or else we will push many more Haris to their breaking point.