Lalitham Sundaram means simplicity is beauty. Simplicity, however, shouldn’t be confused with blandness. And that’s the mistake director Madhu Warrier and his writer Pramod Mohan have made with Lalitham Sundaram, which is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.
The very foundation of this movie is muddled with a lack of clarity on the filmmakers’ part. From the visual style to the tone and personal and relationship conflicts that this film tackles are devoid of a deep understanding or strong emotional core. The movie just puts up a shallow show of how the modern-day rat race is drawing a wedge between relationships and keeping loved ones apart.
Lalitham Sundaram feels like a failed attempt to make a movie like director Shakun Batra’s Kapoor & Sons. The fact that it takes inspiration from the 2016 Bollywood movie is hard to miss. The family house that is located on a hilltop, an ageing father who wants to spend more time with his sons, siblings who are at loggerheads and a birthday party in the third act all scream Kapoor & Sons. But, unlike the Bollywood movie, this film doesn’t understand the pressing relationship issues of today’s world. The perspective that it offers on family problems is as old as time.
The three siblings, Annie, Sunny and Jerry (played by Manju Warrier, Biju Menon, and Anu Mohan respectively), live in three different cities. Their busy work life doesn’t allow them to catch up on each other. In a way, they have all become strangers. Each of them carries an unresolved issue with the other. Finally, they all decide to pay a visit to their old father, who is living alone in a huge house. They don’t intend to spend more than a day looking at each other’s faces.
The night before they are about to return to their individual lives, their father plays a video, which is their mother’s dying wish. We can understand that their mother, played by Zarina Wahab, died of cancer after suffering a lot, without her children by her side. The video is not just her last wish but also shows how she died. The director gets a bit graphic in showing the mother’s suffering to convince the siblings to stay at home for a few more days. The question is didn’t the siblings attend their mother’s funeral? Didn’t the father show this video before?
In a scene, Jerry puts an absolute beat down on his elder brother Sunny in presence of his whole family. The reactions to the incident, however, couldn’t be shallower. Not a single moment in the film feels honest and heartfelt. The complexities of modern-work culture go beyond the uneven work-life balance. It’s high time our filmmakers also understand that.
Fun fact, today also marks the 6th anniversary of the release of Kapoor & Sons.