It is quite easy to pen down Director Ranjith Sankar’s movie Sunny Review – it is a one-character Malayalam film dealt with absolute brilliance and is very immersive. While there are other characters they are almost a silent part of the film, and you will not see their faces on screen. It is a film centered around Sunny (Jayasuriya ) and problems in his life
The Story in Brief: What happens when a lonely, suicidal, alcohol-dependent depressive individual is quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic? Trust Malayalam cinema’s New New Wave to raise a question that the rest of Indian cinema has not, in a form and format that most commercial cinema would hold at arm’s length.
Sunny (Jayasurya) plays the protagonist role in the movie. Sunny returns to Dubai after his wife leaves him and his business takes a huge downward spiral. While on his way to a posh hotel in Kerala, he burns down his passport and loses control of his mind, and indulges in alcohol.
Sunny Review: Jayasuriya as Sunny is thoughtful , entertaining and immersive
Slowly, we are introduced to the problems in his life. His wife Nimmi is estranged and pushing for a divorce. Their child lived only for an hour. On top of it, he ran away from Dubai due to financial issues and owes Jacob a huge sum of money.
Sunny is by and large a solo-actor/solo-character film. We do hear voices of other people on the phone, catch fleeting glimpses of hotel staff, drivers and another guest at the hotel, but the story and the camera rest entirely on Jayasurya.
When he begins his two-week quarantine, Jayasurya seems to be content with his stay, courtesy of alcohol. Soon, the hotel refuses to provide alcohol. This is where the isolation takes a toll on Jayasurya. It pushes him to confront his problems. How Jayasurya battles alcoholism, suicidal thoughts and emerges a new man forms the story.
The film, which runs for one-and-a-half hours, slowly introduces audiences to Jayasurya’s Sunny. At first, he comes across as an arrogant person. But, as the film progresses, we travel with Sunny and are invested in his story.
Director Ranjith Sankar’s clever decision to keep the runtime short worked in his favour. It makes Sunny intriguing with just one character. More importantly, the film makes you want to know more about Sunny’s life. That, probably, is the success of Sunny.
Sunny’s interactions with a cop, therapist and a random person in the hotel are what propel him to overcome his struggles. He has hallucinations and is also going through alcohol withdrawal syndrome. When the therapist gifts him a sapling, he is enraged. As days pass, he begins to understand its importance. The whole sequence is refreshing to watch and holds a mirror to the audience.
Sunny is sensitive in showing how Covid-induced quarantine can mess up our heads. Jayasurya’s performance is simply brilliant. Especially in a particular scene where he breaks down, you would want to cry with him. His minute expressions and the smallest grunts create a lasting impact. It makes you feel what Sunny, as a character, is feeling.
While the climax might feel pretty convenient, Sunny still has enough meat to keep you invested. The way Ranjith Sankar has juxtaposed Sunny’s personal problems with the aloofness that comes with quarantine is what makes the film stand out.
Jayasurya is as mainstream as they get, and the fact that he opted not just to star in this film but also co-produce it with his long-time collaborator Ranjith (Punyalan Private Limited, Njan Marykkutty) tells you all you need to know about contemporary Malayalam cinema’s penchant for experimentation and determination to redefine what constitutes commercial. The result of this team’s risk-taking and their faith in the script written by Ranjith himself is a surprisingly engaging film.