A wish for immortality probably lies latent in the minds of many. It is a wish that becomes reality for the protagonists of Shalini Ushadevi’s film Ennennum (Now and Forever), being screened in the Malayalam Cinema Today section at the 28th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK). But, rather than the immense possibilities of immortality, the director here is concerned with how the experiments change the texture of the relationship between the couple.
Ouso (Anoop Mohandas) and Devi (Santhy) sign up with a company that has developed an expensive technology which promises immortality. The couple have three days to experiment with the technology, after which they have no option of going back. But, things really do not turn out the way they expect them to. The storyline immediately brings to mind the many scary ideas that were explored in the dystopian science fiction series Black Mirror, and Shalini charts a path of her own in writing a film around such an idea.
Along with the couple, the audience is also caught in this strange atmosphere accentuated by the peculiar architecture of the house that they live in. For those concerned about surveillance and related issues, it would be a nightmare to live in a house with an expansive glass roof from which anyone can peer down. Much of the events in the film happens within the house. The orchards near the house are the farthest that the characters venture out into.
Technology might be the wrapper on this narrative, but what lies at the heart is a human story, of a couple who have known each other for a few years still struggling to get a measure of each other, and trying to shape each other in the way they want their partners to be. It is this one possibility of the technology, to remove the unlikeable parts in the other to create the best immortal version of that person, which is at the core of the conflicts in the film. Shalini had debuted a decade ago with the psychological thriller Akam, which showed her ability to represent complex human emotions on screen.
Parallel to the couple’s experiments with immortality runs that of a political party which is trying to resurrect its leader (Ouso’s elder brother) who has passed away recently, and create a political immortal who could pay them rich dividends in future elections. But the poor are shut out in this dystopian world too, by a technology that is not even remotely affordable for them.
Both Anoop and Santhy effectively convey the myriad emotions of a couple exploring uncharted territory and failing to cope with it. Ennennum, which is a novel attempt thematically in Malayalam cinema, works well as an idea, and in the exploration of its various aspects, but one does not always get pulled in emotionally into the narrative. We tend to watch it all from a distance, with the faint hope that technological advance would not be as fast as shown in the film.