Padmarajan’s Aparan (The Imposter): A Malayalam Neo Noir Movie

Vishwanathan Pillai (Jayaram) is a young graduate, who is preparing for his next interview. Anyone who has given interviews in India will know that it is just a lucky draw of sorts. The question ranges from what is the distance between the Moon to the Earth, to who is the CM of a particular state.

We see Vishwanathan mugging up from a GK book, Padmarajan beautifully establishes the contrast of India, where here this once upon a time rich upper caste family is finding its way in the new world order. In turn of events, Vishwanathan is mistaken for a criminal who looks like him and is detained by police.  George (Mukesh), the inspector turns out to be his college friend and releases him.

AparanDejected and ashamed Vishwanathan returns to his village. His misery does not end here. It seems the reputation of the criminal follows him like a shadow, which also leads to the break up of his sister’s engagement.

Things return to normalcy when he secures a job in the same city again and finds a lady love (Shobana). Unfortunately, once again, he becomes a victim of his doppelgänger’s character.

On the surface, the Aparan looks like countless other films where both the people look alike, while one is good and the other is evil and how good eventually wins forms the crux of such films.

However Aparan is not such a film. For starters, it never shows the criminal, all we hear about the criminal are accounts and references from different sources. We never know who is he, even his birth is a myth and many say he may have been born on the same day as Jesus. We hear his voice over a phone, in the last 15 minutes of the film.

Like Padmarajan’s Thoovanathumbikal, this film also explores the duality inside all of us. Who are we? How do we behave? Can we judge a man based on someone’s view or should we judge him at all? Can a reputation of a man ruin his standing in society? What is our identity, is it just our face or much more than that. Who defines us? Can the environment influence us?

Aparan tries to answer all these questions.

hqdefaultPadmarajan builds the atmosphere of the film slowly and gives us a riveting climax. It is the genius of Padmarajan who takes the subject of the doppelganger and turns it into a character study of human psychology. The way he effortlessly brings across how Indians drop their caste into their conversation is a delight to watch, when Vishwanathan talks to the peon. The hierarchy and red tape in the office, when documents are verified in office is also clearly shown.

Whenever Vishwanathan is in trouble or mistaken for the criminal If you look carefully at all such scenes he resorts to English while claiming his innocence. Padmarajan brings out the hypocrisy among Indians who think those who speak English are not criminals.

The way Padmarajan establishes the office romance between Ambili and Vishwanathan is a delight to watch. One particular scene which caught my attention is a scene when Ambili is shown washing her face, only a genius like Padmarajan can bring out the sensuality in even mundane things.

Most Malayam filmmakers still use stock music in background music, the result is most films sound same to us. Even today most Indian filmmakers use same tune of songs as bgm in their films. Padmarajan does not resort to that. Special mention to Johnson the music director for the same.

Instead what we get is a theme music based on the mood of the scene, which heightens the experience of watching the film. I hope someone more qualified writes about the BGM of Aparan.

Padmarajan seems to suggest that a human being can become a criminal or law abiding citizen, based on his/her experience. A society can shape the attitude of man. There is a criminal amongst all of us, how do we handle him/her is a matter of personal choice. He chooses a wonderful way he to showcase this in the last scene, which gives you the chills.  The other meaning of Aparan is Imposter, Padmarajan is keen to show this fact. Beneath all our exterior lies the real us, not the imposter whom we show to the society. All of us are much more raw and primal than what we would like to admit.

P.S. A good quality of the print is unavailable on the internet, but do watch it here.It has English and Arabic subtitles. Do check out the credit sequences, even if you cannot read Malayalam.

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