Daayam (Inheritance) Movie Review: Grief, secrets, and a recipe for chaos

Prasanth Vijay's film paints an intriguing picture of a household in mourning
Daayam (Inheritance) Movie Review: Grief, secrets, and a recipe for chaos

One always approaches a story involving grieving characters with a bit of trepidation. The early portions of Prasanth Vijay's Daayam (Inheritance) establish the aftermath of the passing of a woman in her 40s. A convincing rendering of the gloomy confines of her home, now occupied by the widower Raghu (Pradeep Geedha) and their teenage daughter Kalyani (Aathira Rajeev), is established. The latter, with other family members, reminisce about the good ol' days. It's a picture familiar to many of us while growing up. Among the objects belonging to the deceased that register quite an impression is a recipe book that may be missing an ingredient or two because the woman was adept at "not giving away all her secrets". While on secrets, Daayam takes quite an intriguing turn when it examines who among the two is more sincere with their grieving.

Director: Prasanth Vijay

Cast: Aathira Rajeev, Pradeep Geedha

Rating: 4/5

As Kalyani, Aathira Rajeev puts on a competently sombre act, effectively conveying the rigours of overcoming such an unexpected detour in her life. Moments of relief come to her through videos recorded with her late mother or voice notes on her WhatsApp during their happier times. (We may deride the perils of technology, but scenes like this make us reflect on its ability to preserve some ties with our loved ones.) When it's time to move on, Raghu and Kalyani, initially optimistic about managing the household, find themselves getting increasingly overwhelmed by the multitasking efforts -- juggling between Kalyani's school and Raghu's office pressures on one side and looking after the house on the other. Overflowing water on the floor, overflowing milk on the stove... Meanwhile, there is an investigation -- well, let's not get into spoilers now.

Suffice it to say that Raghu's character becomes the focus of filmmaker Prasanth Vijay's investigation -- a peek into the psyche of a man who indulged in much virtue signalling at the beginning but is now slowly revealing himself to be a man of dubious character. Pradeep Geedha is quite remarkable at playing a man constrained by the suspicious eyes of his daughter and his various other ineptitudes. On more than one occasion, this "progressive intellectual" makes veiled casteist remarks. In another instance, the man who once told his daughter to make her own choices is now doing otherwise. And one woman's absence becomes an excuse to seek solace in another's presence. Wait, has he been doing this for long, though? Is there some truth to the gossip propagated by his relatives earlier? And why is the man's brother-in-law often agitated?

Daayam, written by Indu Lakshmi, is essentially a coming-of-age drama mostly told from the vantage point of the daughter who, aside from facing this overwhelming task of making peace with her mother's demise, is now left to encounter the harsh realities of a world populated by men who can do as they please and get away with it. The father, at one point, makes an insensitive remark about women who have remained single for a long time. The context takes on a bigger significance in the light of the MeToo movement.

Interestingly, the film is being screened at IFFK alongside two other heavyweights from this year's Malayalam cinema that venture into the same territory: Family (by Don Palathara) and Aattam (by Anand Ekarshi). Like Daayam, they offer their own unique perspectives through the eyes of characters from both genders. Though sufficiently dialogue-heavy, Daayam also remembers that some moments work better in silence. The closing shot of a money plant beginning to grow out of the bars of a kitchen window speaks volumes.

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