Wait. Was that really the best background score I’ve heard in an Indian film since….since gawd knows when? The magnificent Jayasurya who plays the Covid-isolated protagonist Sunny keeps hearing sounds and voices. Luckily for us, that beautiful haunting background score by Sanker Sharma is real. Thank God!
And thank Covid Maharaj for this film. If it wasn’t for Hitler we wouldn’t have had Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. If it wasn’t for Covid we would have had no Sunny, a film so profound in meditative maneuvers on mortality, so subtle and tender in bringing out emotion buried too deep for words, and so emotionally locked into the protagonist’s wounded heart, the lockdown here becomes both physical and emotional.
When we first touchdown in Sunny’s life he has just landed in Kochi from Dubai. It becomes disturbingly apparent in the first ten minutes that Sunny is on the verge of some kind of a serious breakdown. He drinks incessantly (After Vellam, again a boozard? Jayasurya is making a habit of it). He is restless. He is delusional. He speaks to his ex-wife, his ex-girlfriend, his lawyer, a counselor. But none of them want to speak to him.
There is a heart-stopping moment in the drama where Sunny dials a number stored as ‘Appayan’. A stranger answers. “Sorry, this used to be my father’s number. I didn’t know who else to dial,” Sunny explains to the kind stranger.
Such moments capturing the core of human despair are rare in cinema. Embrace it.
Sunny, as you must have guessed, is alone in a posh hotel suite waiting for his quarantine to end. In a miraculous show of supple tactile strength, director Ranjith Sankar constructs a powerful drama about a weak man who is rapidly losing touch with reality.
This brings me to Jayasurya’s spectacular performance. He is so inured in the character’s dark desperate suicidal world (at one point, Sunny actually puts a piece of broken glass to his wrist, at another point he is about to jump off from the balcony of his fourth-floor hotel suite) that we become unconditionally invested in his desolation for a little more than 90 minutes. Not that Sunny is likable or even remotely heroic. But his anguish is a throbbing entity, impossible to ignore.
I’ve seen many actors do a one-man show: Sunil Dutt in Yaadein, Rajkummar Rao in Trapped Tom Hanks in Castaway. None of these actors has been able to capture the essence of isolation as effectively as Jayasurya. He takes us into Sunny’s wretched life—a broken marriage, a broken extra-marital affair, a lost job, debts owed to nasty people, a dead child—not in a ritualistic relay race of imposed drama created to build a sense of sympathy around the quarantined hero.
Nothing is that simple in Sunny. And yet everything is as simple or complex as you choose to make it. Among the high points in this dreamlike drama of the damned, is the friendship that Sunny strikes with the girl Adithi in the suite above his. They only exchange cursory words in the balcony. But a bond is created. And when Adithi (Sritha Sivadas) is leaving Sunny runs into the elevator just to see her going down and out of his life.
Glimpsed images of stolen joy are captured with essential empathy by Madhu Neelakandan. The editing (Shameer Muhammed) echoes the protagonist’s restless mind. But rest assured, the narration is in no hurry to go anywhere. Flawless and seamless the narration cuts through the pandemic to slice out a portion of life that’s not easy to forget.
As for Jayasurya, is he a better actor than his Malayali peer Fahaad Faasil? When Sunny finally breaks down at the end (out of relief not despair) I was sobbing with him. This is not a performance. This is an embodiment of life’s essential truth where the adage ‘This Too Shall Pass’ acquires an entirely novel relevance.