Parking Movie Review: An intriguing and relatable take on male ego
The male ego is a fascinating paradox—it is both the architect of ambition and the architect of its own downfall. Fascinatingly, films that are built on this theme, have more often than not always ended up as remarkable cinema. Debutant Ramkumar Balakrishnan's Parking is no exception. In many ways, the film feels like a fitting end to the male ego series of Malayalam writer Sachy, the man behind Driving License and Ayyapanum Koshiyum. But what makes Parking original and relatable despite borrowing liberally from the emotional beats of Sachy's films is its setting and characters.
Cast: MS Bhaskar, Harish Kalyan, Indhuja Ravichandran, Rama, Prathana Nathan
Director: Ramkumar Balakrishnan
If Ayyappanum Koshiyum's leads are from the Army and Police, Driving License explored the ego struggle between a Superstar and a motor vehicle inspector. In Parking, however, the tiff is between two normal people with 9-5 jobs and their disagreement is over a simple shared parking space. Instead of introducing us to the conflict from the word go, Ramkumar takes his time to show that Eshwar (Harish) and Ilamparuthi (MS Bhaskar) aren't very different from us. We slowly get acquainted with every principal character's aspirations, priorities, vices and even their vocabulary. It's interesting how the filmmaker builds up their bromance before the ultimate split closer to the interval. And he makes sure the second half is a full-on face-off of leads who don't hold back a punch, quite literally, to emerge as the alpha male.
The beauty of Parking lies in not making us pick a side. Every time there is a clash, a part of us wishes they don't worsen the damage further, and a part of us anticipates more tension and drama on-screen. Take, for instance, the first drag race between Eshwar and Ilamparuthi to the parking lot. Eshwar wins just by a second and storms into the house, only to break the side mirror of his brand-new car. The brilliant making of Parking places us in the driver's seat and ensures that we feel the rage, adrenaline rush and instant regret of Eshwar within a matter of minutes. Let's reimagine the scene with Ilamparuthi as the winner... does it change our emotions? Certainly not and this is a huge win for the debutant filmmaker.
Even when the tit-for-tat phase of the leads gets bloody severe in the second half and they go on to make extreme decisions that could potentially alter both their and their nemesis' life forever, it doesn't make us go,' Who in their right mind would do such things?', but we buy the idea that when hit in the most vulnerable spot, even an angel can become a satan in minutes. The clever screenplay ensures that the resources at their disposal and their plan Bs are terribly restricted. Even if the ones who don't feel exactly the same and firmly believe that they would have stepped aside from the chaos, wouldn't feel alien to the psyche of the leads.
The foreshadowing in the Parking is so thoughtfully and tastefully placed. Without rubbing it on the audience's face or making them unnoticeably fleeting, the cinematography of Jiju Sunny and editing by Philomin Raj ensure that visuals are tailor-made to suit the requirement.
Cars are the achievable equivalents of houses for the Indian middle class. So innately, the emotional attachment they share with this fancy piece of metal is quite strong. Every one of us who lost our cool seeing the first scratch on our newly arrived car, ones who ran late to an important occasion hunting for a parking spot, and the ones who refuse to give in to abusive neighbours are an instant target audience of this film. And the film keeps delivering highs at every crucial moment.
While Rama and Prarthana Nathan deliver striking performances as Ilamparuthi's wife and daughter, respectively, Indhuja as the pregnant, soft-spoken Aathika is visibly confused about whether to emote enough in demanding situations or be restrained. MS Bhaskar, who made us tear up with his acting chops in films like Uthama Villain and Mozhi, and laugh our lungs out on multiple occasions, delivers chills as the middle-aged, morally conflicted, multi-layered Ilamparuthi. Parking is yet another film reminding us of the untapped potential in the actor. Harish Kalyan channelises the raging Gautham from Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum and the level-headed Prabhu from Dharala Prabhu, in the right proportions and proves that he is more than a romantic hero.
Parking is a bold film that revealed its core story and important moments in its promotional trailer. Despite clearly knowing the order of core events in the tale, we are hooked on to the screen thanks to the superior command director Ramkumar has over his craft. Even when the final act and climax of Parking don't catch us off-guard, we aren't complaining about it entirely as a part of us wanted to see this ending. On the whole, this debut of Ramkumar gets comfortably parked in our minds as one of the memorable films of this year.