Review Malayalam

Richter Scale 7.6 review: Exploring the environmental impact on the human psyche

Release Date: 23 May 2019 / 01hr 12min


Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Jeeva KJ's debut film features a crucial concern that is largely overlooked, but its execution doesn't quite work.

Jeeva KJ’s Malayalam film Richter Scale 7.6 (2017) is an unusual story that traces the toll that ecological imbalance exacts on the human mind.

Emphasizing the delicate balance between man and nature, the film questions the unseen repercussions of the environmental exploitation taking place in the name of development and its far-reaching impact.

Raman Kunju, a traditional Kolam Thullal artist, is past his prime and lives with his son Suku. Kunju's eccentric ways and restless mind make Suku restrain his father physically, chaining him to his bed to prevent his escape.

Suku has his own dreams and aspirations, which are thwarted by Kunju’s presence and way of being. But when Suku meets with an accident and is unable to move, he begins to relate to his father's state of mind and sees him in a different light.

The father-son relationship lies at the heart of the film and is deeply disturbing in parts as the film slowly unravels the reality of their situation. 

The title of the film gestures towards the environmental calamity that awaits us if we do not mend our ways and put an end to ruthless exploitation of the environment. An earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale will have catastrophic effects for life as we know it and the film offers a chilling possibility of that through the stunning end shot, offering a perspective on the callous and systematic pillage of the land and the people who choose to keep inhabiting it.

The psychological impact of the devastation of nature is explored as, for Kunju, songs, music and dance throb with life as opposed to the detritus around their home. Similarly, memory and imagination offer the only possible escape from the bitter reality as Kunju finds shelter in them.

The film foregrounds two men engaged in daily domestic chores for their sustenance as it largely remains confined to the space of the home, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, much like the situation of those who choose to stay behind even as their land is ravaged.

Despite its heart being in the right place, the film adopts a rather tangential approach to its subject. The movement between reality and imagination is seamless, so the transition is not always evident. The fact that the context comes at the end of the film makes one rethink the film entirely, as one is viewing it with a different lens up till that point.

While one understands the intent behind employing such a technique, it doesn't quite work as it creates dissonance with the ways in which one is interpreting the actions of the characters and their situation till that moment.

Nonetheless, as a debut feature film, Richter Scale 7.6 is a noteworthy attempt with a subject matter that needs to be urgently addressed. 

Richter Scale 7.6 was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on 23 May 2019.

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival

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