Lalitham Sundaram Movie Review: A passable family drama with most things sweet
Madhu Wariar's directorial debut is a familiar but harmless watch
Lalitham Sundaram begins with a drone shot of the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link. At the right corner of this gorgeous frame is written 'Mumbai' (of course). After introducing a family there, we move to Bengaluru. The landmark used to establish this new city is Vidhana Soudha. The next set of characters is introduced. Then the camera reaches Kochi with a bird's eye view shot of the city and its metro route. The makers could have just shown the landmark locations and straightaway cut to the characters who reside in these cities. But they chose to mention the places in Bold, Capitals. This is how the whole film is treated. Every second detail is spoon-fed. There's hardly anything inventive or subtle. Like the title suggests, the film is definitely lalitham (simple) but more about the sundaram (beautiful) part later.
Director: Madhu Wariar
Cast: Manju Warrier, Biju Menon, Anu Mohan, Raghunath Paleri
Lalitham Sundaram has Sunny (Biju Menon), Annie (Manju Warrier), and Jerry (Anu Mohan) as siblings, who are all busy with their respective lives. Upon their dad's (Raghunath Paleri) request, all of them visit their native for their mother's death anniversary. As they land, we learn that the once close-knit siblings have now grown apart and are not really eager to be under the same roof. But to fulfill their mother's last wish, they agree to spend a few days together. During this stay, they disagree, fight, realise and reconcile. It's a Kapoor and Sons-like setting, but Lalitham Sundaram doesn't want to delve deep into the interpersonal dynamics or get into the nuances of familial bondings. Instead, it resorts to familiar plot points and tropes associated with a family drama. It is one of those films where even if you skip a couple of scenes in between, you wouldn't miss much.
Manju Warrier's Annie is a high-flying corporate professional and a mother of two. Her husband Sandeep, played by Saiju Kurup, is the husband of dreams. A retired Merchant Navy Captain, Sandeep is now the happy househusband. He's the 'nanma maram' of the family. Manju Warrier does well in playing the bold and bossy Annie, who is unafraid of standing up to anyone, even if it's her elder brother, Sunny. In another character's words, she is the perfectionist who thinks she is leading a perfect life, only to learn later that she has her flaws as well.
Biju Menon as Sunny is a failed businessman, who carries with him a lot of insecurities and complexes. He has a troublesome relationship with his siblings and prefers to stay detached. The reasons for his insecurities are only revealed at almost the end of the film and by then, the writing fails to incite an emotional connection. Similarly, Jerry too has a backstory, the villain in which is Sunny. All the realisations dawn only towards the final few minutes. It is so packed that it's reminiscent of that popular scene in FRIENDS when Monica's mom says, "That's a lot of information to get in 30 seconds."
Madhu Wariar's directorial debut has low ambitions and doesn't try anything groundbreaking. All it intends to is to tell a formulaic story of a seemingly-happy-but-
In this story of a disjointed family, the most memorable character is that of an outsider played by Sudheesh. His Rajesh is the local do-gooder, who is close to the family and has always wanted to be a part of it. Right from the moment it is established that Rajesh is a loner, it's easily predictable that he'll get an emotional monologue about the importance of families and relationships. Sudheesh still manages to surprise with an excellent act.
On the technical front, Lalitham Sundaram has the aesthetics of a glossy ad film. The walls are painted in beautiful bright colours and the decors are too 'arty' rather than reflecting the family's dynamics. These random colours seem to be more of a prerequisite while making feel-good, comfort films.
The film ends with the family burying all their differences and happily gorging on their mother's favorite mutton curry. They'll probably crack a few jokes, share some more memories, and move on with their lives. Similarly, watching this film can elicit a few laughs, bring back some old memories and then you can move on as well since Lalitham Sundaram is one of those comfort films that doesn't do anything new or try too hard. And sometimes, that is okay.