“Is there anything more that we could do?” – asks the health minister, C.K Prameela (Revathi) to Dr. Suresh Rajan (Kunchacko Boban) in the brilliantly scripted Virus. The screenplay by Muhsin Parari, Sharfu and Suhas succeeds on multiple levels. It gives you an almost complete awareness of the Nipah virus outbreak and containment that happened in Kerala in 2018. It lets you have an emotional connect with the patients and their families. It also works as an effective thriller when the government and team of doctors work on finding the source of the virus and how the different victims are linked. It is intelligent writing to get the movie started on one of the patients who later got affected with the virus and then traceback to the onset and reveal slowly the flashbacks of each patient one by one. Another fabulous aspect in the writing is how such a tremendous cast is so finely used.
Kunchacko Boban has perhaps the most lines in the movie. Director Aashiq Abu uses the calmness in the actor’s voice and body language to steer the movie forward. Soubin Sahir’s ability to leave such a big impact even with such small screentime is incredible. He tears you apart in the scene where Parvathy tells him about his mother. Asif Ali has taken a huge leap forward as an actor in the last couple of months. Indrajith manages to get the crowd laugh, even during such a serious narrative. When they showed how a doctor’s life in the hospital looks like initially, Sreenath Bhasi’s quick change of expressions on his face told you how each of his patient is doing. Rima Kallingal’s performance in such a brief stint is heart warming. Parvathy and Tovino have perhaps done better jobs in recent times that here you feel they don’t supercede it.
In Mayanadi and now Virus, Aashiq Abu now looks a director who is so assured of what he is doing. There is amazing perfection and clarity in his each frame. You never feel he is hurried. One of the movie’s most beautiful scenes is when Asif Ali and his wife lie down in their bed and have a discussion in the flashback. It then transitions smoothly to the present where he lies near his wife who is fighting with Nipah on the hospital. This is where I have to say, the veteran Rajeev Ravi does a fantastic job in the visual department. Most of the times it’s after you have involved deeply in a sequence, that you realize Sushin Shyam’s moving background score had helped you. With so many tracks in the movie that keeps shifting from present and past, this movie is edited so neatly by Saiju Sreedharan.
Virus is not really “entertaining Cinema”, something which Traffic was – one another movie that comes to your mind easily because of its similarly big cast and real life based story it handled. Aashiq Abu manages to engage you and move you in Virus. But he achieves it through a film making style that you are not much used to in Malayalam Cinema.
Virus raises the stakes for Aashiq Abu further as one of our top directors today.
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