Having begun my tryst with Malayalam cinema only in 2010, my experience with the industry’s aesthetics and themes is still very nascent. But in this relatively short span of time and a fair share of meaningful films later, I can confidently say that no film industry in India portrays the shades of reality along with creating avant-garde content the way Malayalam cinema has done. In 2020, when the world was battling a dreaded pandemic and the movie industry wilted in the face of this adversity, editor-turned-filmmaker Mahesh Narayanan trod an interesting path by writing, directing and editing C U Soon, a movie completely filmed with an iPhone under lockdown during the COVID pandemic. Having burst onto the scene with his impressive directorial debut thriller Take Off, the filmmaker pushed the envelope yet again with a daring project that looks easy to execute on paper but is far from it.
When Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) and Anu (Darshana Rajendran), both based in Dubai, “match” profiles online, they delve into a series of chats and video calls over the course of a week leading to a lightning-quick proposal without a physical meeting. When Jimmy’s mother (Mala Parvathi) expresses concern over the suddenness of the move and the limited knowledge of Anu’s history, Jimmy requests his cousin Kevin (Fahadh Faasil), a security and surveillance techie, to help him find out more about his fiancée and appease his mother. What begins as a harmless background check turns into a web of mistaken identities and deadly secrets that threatens to shake the core of the couple’s utopic relationship.
Right from the outset, the director hurtles into the virtual world of online chats, video conferences, Google searches, Facebook logs, multiple screens, pictures and file grabs, and the like. We almost feel personally sucked into this world and its infinite processes, possibly because most of us genuinely exist in this manner and space everyday. Yet, with all the explosion of information that is thrown at us in quick succession, the screenplay is amazingly coherent and seamless. The online jargon, especially in typed chats, and the authenticity in the use of regular apps have been detailed to perfection. It is quite a remarkable feat to achieve this level of realism – whilst shooting with an iPhone, no less – and Narayanan gets the style absolutely spot-on. Importantly, he makes sure that the narrative doesn’t waver or disappear in this quagmire of technology. The audience is dealt many suspenseful and thrilling moments that are executed competently and do not wane in intensity over the course of the film’s crisp running time. The film is also an illuminating commentary on the boons and banes of living in a digitally-driven world – a space that we want to be wary of for its dangers but ironically get sucked into.
Actors would mostly concur with the view that it requires a special set of skills to underplay. Staring at screens, typing, chatting and making a bunch of calls might be thought to require minimal effort but appearing natural while portraying the unconscious banality of everyday life is possibly the most difficult thing to achieve. Fahadh Faasil and Roshan Mathew hit the perfect notes and become one with their characters. It is virtually impossible to separate them from Jimmy and Kevin. But the performance of the film comes from Darshana Rajendran, who is brilliant in her portrayal of Anu. She plays her with a genuine vulnerability and emotion that is hard to shake off. The supporting cast also slips in equally organically to further the plot. The dialogue rolls off their tongues like it would off any of ours and that is one of the main connections that the film has with its audience.
C U Soon is a risky experiment but reaps rich rewards through its fresh and innovative storytelling manner, proving that no space or screen (literally in this case!) is too small for a narrative to be conceived. Watch C U Soon. It’s excellent new-age movie-making and is completely worth your time.