Lund 2012 Review: AKAM. The Quiet, Almost Too Quiet, Indian Thriller.
Srini, a young successful architect, becomes horribly disfigured along one side of his face when he gets into a car accident. His girlfriend leaves him and Srini spirals into a state of self loathing. But one night he comes upon Ragini, a beautiful, yet mysterious woman, who sees past his physical scarring and they fall in love. But no sooner are they married when Srini begins to slide back into depression and starts suspecting that his beautiful wife is a yakshi, a mythical demoness from Indian folklore that drinks their victim's blood.
A contemporary retelling of Malayattoor Ramakrishnan's classic psycho-thriller novel Yakshi (1967), Akam is an Indian film written and directed by Shalini Usha Nair. The novel was previously adapted to film back in 1968.
Nair's adaptation of the novel takes an ambiguous approach, never willing to admit that Ragini is this creature Srini believes her to be. Is this all a figment of Srini's imagination? Is his already fragile psychosis driving him mad? Or is Ragini really a blood sucking demon? These questions are left open at the end of film, leaving the viewer free to make up their own mind. Nair also flirts with the narrative structure skipping back and forth from flashbacks. Some of these moments lack a certain proclamation and it took a brief moment to catch on what was happening; perhaps to draw us away from trying to make our conclusions about the true nature of Ragini.
With the help of cinematographer Christopher John Smith there are some terrific images captured on film, most notably at the end. There is also a sequence near the end of the film where Nair keeps the camera fixed, the action happening off camera with nary a glimpse of Srini and Ragini as they enter the kitchen off screen. You won't know what is really happening until the shot breaks but with effective use of sound you have a pretty good idea what Srini is thinking of doing. It is these brief moments where Nair displays skill as a director.
Nair's film is a very quiet and still film, nearly to a fault. It is heavier in mood and mild on gore as it subtlety hints at horrific acts. The films pacing and quiet tone may require a fair degree of patience though. Any other time and the story could have been easily ramped up and the tension increased tenfold.