More than 24 hours after I finished watching this annoyingly self-conscious dramedy about a father who sells ice cream and a son who screams and screams at his father’s juvenile antics, I am yet to figure out what exactly the tone of the narrative wants to convey. That it’s okay for a 40-year old man to behave like a pre-teen brat? Cycling all over the village with his homemade ice cream creating a nuisance and embarrassing his little son and daughter.
Weirdly for a film directed by a woman the daughter is completely sidelined by the script. As is the case with the award-winning film Minari, the focus is on the father (Samuthirakani) and his son (Manikandan) and the unholy tension that stands between them. The son hates his father’s obnoxious ways. Who wouldn’t!
There is a sequence on a bus where the young son (child actor Kailash) is reduced to helpless tears as his father gets into a slinging match with a woman who turns out to be the boy’s schoolteacher. For me, any hope of a redemptive spark in the father was extinguished in that scene on the bus. His behaviour grows increasingly obnoxious as the plot progresses. Towards the second half, the narrative interest swerves from the father and son to the now-grownup son wooing the daughter of a local politician.
It all seems fairly unnecessary and pointless, though one can sense a semblance of sobriety tucked under tons of bantering. There is a story about parental responsibility and filial failings hovering somewhere within the folds of frivolity. But the film’s tone doesn’t allow us to feel any empathy for the father even when he indulges in flashes of generosity towards his children.
At one point we are told the father drops his son at a well-to-do couple’s place as they are childless, and collects money from the couple for his largesse. Are we supposed to be amused by this parental aberration? Is this father to be taken seriously? Writer-director Halitha Shameem certainly doesn’t.
The film opens at the end when the father is dead. The visitors and relatives’ artificial grief was done far more effectively in the recent Ramprasad Ki Terahvi. Among the pseudo-mourners, there is a professional mourner who tells the grieving son to record her moans and wails as she must leave for another funeral.
The film's strenuous lightheartedness feels that. A recorded version of real emotions rather than the real thing.Going through the motions rather than experiencing the emotions. If you want to watch a grounded powerful father-son film see the Marathi film, Baba. This one is purely for those who crave cheesy in their evening entertainment.
Written & Directed by Halitha Shameem, Aelay gets 2 stars.
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