Aashiq Abu‘s Malayalam film VIRUS is definitely one of the best Indian films of 2019 and is a masterclass in screen writing by Muhsin Parari, Sharfu and Suhas. Playing out like a gripping medical thriller, the film keeps its humane soul intact on how a group of very brave individuals come together to fight and control the deadly nipah virus attack in the state of Kerala. It is an outstanding story of survival in the face of a catastrophe, where humanity and hope triumphs over every medical, political, or any other obstacle. Compassion can be an overpowering strength, and Virus ensures that it does not deviate from that tonality at any time.
Given the premise, it doesn’t have the luxury to explore any rich or lyrical cinematic tropes to appease the sensory, and rather uses a very matter of fact narration style to unravel a moving tale of extreme crisis sans any additional melodrama or hyper-stylized treatment. The multi thread, non-linear, hyper link storytelling is super sharp without being gimmicky and binds the audience attention for every single moment of its playtime. Most importantly, it respects the intellect of its audience in doing so and leaves them with the scope to pick it up all without any underlining.
The film is also a brilliant example of casting a host of top stars from the industry in an ensemble film, and yet ensuring that the story telling doesn’t get compromised for a minute in order to accommodate additional screen time for any particular star. Kudos to Revathy, Parvathy, Soubin Shahir, Asif Ali, Tobino Thomas, Dileesh Pothan and the entire cast for shedding their vanity of stardom completely, and making no attempt to hog limelight from others and from the brilliantly inspiring story which is the king here. They all have enough meat to work with irrespective of the length of their roles, and they all completely dissolve themselves into those characters. There isn’t one extra note in any of the performances, and yet they move you to the core.
A huge shout out to Rajeev Ravi for the excellent cinematography even within the limited scope of mostly indoor shots of a grim premise, outstanding editing by Saiju Sreedharan to keep the pace intriguing without any jarring jumps between the multiple threads and focal points, and the very apt background score of the film (that reminded me of Chernobyl in a few places). Its refreshing how Aashiq Abu stitches it all together using a minimalistic but very modern cinematic language to possibly give us one of the most enriching Indian films of this year so far, if not the very best!
Virus is now playing on Amazon Prime Video, and should be the first thing on your list to watch. And while we are at it, it is raining brilliant Malayalam films on this digital platform at this time, so please do not miss out on Kumbalangi Nights (will talk about it in detail separately later) and Ishq: Not A Love Story as well. These three films are a good testimony of why the maturity of the Malayalam film industry is way ahead of any other industry in the country at the moment. So much to learn for others and grow!
Do NOT miss Virus! It’s what cinema can offer when it is at it’s very best!
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