Peranbu: A beautiful meditation on life and love

People have always gone on and on about Mammootty’s breathtakingly handsome looks. Judge me all you want, but I’ve always had trouble seeing this as they have. Till Ram’s Peranbu, that is. I now finally see how glorious he is to behold, and it’s not simply because of the shape of his hairline, the warmth of his face, the life in his eyes, although they all certainly help. It’s his ability to show Amudhavan, the character he plays in this film, in all his delicious complexity as a human: The frailty, the strength, the prejudices, the empathy… Peranbu — and you can say this about barely a film every year — sheds light on the human condition. Filmmakers have typically looked to celebrate the human spirit amid loud cheering and thumping music, but director Ram does this through deep silences and quiet conversations, for the most part. This affirmation of life is made evident right at the beginning of the film when Amudhavan, the narrator, says that his motive of documenting his story is to make us all realise that we lead blessed lives. The temptation is to look at this superficially and conclude that Amudhavan means this in a self-pitying way, after resigning to his life’s challenges — foremost of which is being a single father of a spastic girl. You could conclude that the narrator is suggesting that somehow, our lives are better than his, and you’d be wrong. Peranbu doesn’t judge. It’s not saying your life is more blessed than Amudhavan’s. It’s saying that our lives, our respective journeys, are all equally important, not one more than other. “Aasirvadhikkapatta vaazhkai,” in the words of Amudhavan.

Aasirvadhikkapatta’ is a curious choice of word, for, it begs the question, “By what or whom?” It’s in a sense deterministic, the implication being we are not in control, not of the cards we keep getting dealt with anyway. Director Ram’s answer isn’t a deity, not of the conventional variety. He’s perhaps a pantheist, given how each of the film’s ten chapters — athiyaayangal — reference nature. Chapter 3 is Iyarkai Kodooramaanadhu (Nature is vicious). Chapter 8 is Iyarkai Irakkamaanadhu (Nature is merciful). Chapter 10 is Iyarkai Vidhigalatradhu (Nature is ruleless). It’s quite clear: Nature isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s simply what it is. And humans, beings of nature, aren’t good or bad; we are what we are. This reluctance to judge, to label people, is a striking feature of Peranbu. And it’s perhaps necessary if you are indeed to be capable of peranbu (boundless love). If this review seems contemplative, it’s very much in keeping with the nature of this film. Amudhavan is a deeply reflective person, and open to learning and unlearning at a speed unthinkable for many of us. Peranbu isn’t just about a single father learning to care for his spastic daughter; it’s about what it is to become capable of true love. It’s about what it is to look past constructs like gender and sex. And as Amudhavan discovers, sometimes, loving another person even means hurting oneself…

You can read the full review here at Cinema Express.

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