It would be unfair to reduce director Mahesh Narayanan’s second film as an ode to the restricted times we live in, but C U Soon is really an excellent experiment to observe on a laptop screen when we are barred from going out. It uses all the devices that we would naturally turn to in such a space and still creates an intriguing, nail-biting cinematic experience. C U Soon would have played out differently (and well) on the big screen, but this way, this gritty, emotional tale of survival hits the viewer in a different manner.
C U Soon begins cleverly in a virtual space (inevitably reminding you of Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching, a reference the makers themselves have brought up in many interviews), an indication to the narrative mechanisms in store. Abu Dhabi-based Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) is casually trying to find profiles that match with his own on Tinder, leading him to Anumol (Darshana Rajendran), who lives in Dubai. Jimmy is a client executive at a bank and true to the nature of his profession, he moves fast, instantly asking for her WhatsApp number, only to have her suggest Google chat. A series of exchanges follow, and Jimmy is soon having a group video chat with her mother and cousin. We see their relationship develop on these chat windows and it’s smart writing here, delicately maintaining the flow. Their chats soon shift from awkward getting-to-know-each-other to exchanging kisses over video chats. There is a nice scene where she points out a curry stain on his lips (the close-up shot is almost scary!), which sort of leads to an intimate moment.
We are also using this virtual room to size up Jimmy and Anumol. He comes across as someone prone to falling in and out of love. His father died when he was young and he is close to his mother. When he tells her he has taken to drinking after a recent heartbreak, Anumol wonders if that is at all a reason. It is easy to draw the contrast in their upbringing and thought processes. The rich spoilt NRI boy who has already fallen in love and wants to get married and the practical middle-class girl who is still figuring out where this is all leading to. When he introduces her to his mother on a video call, Anu gets fidgety, wondering if he really wants to marry her. And here is where I truly realised the advantage of reviewing a movie premiering on an OTT platform. Not only could I quickly rewind and pause at the exact scene I was wondering about, I could also appreciate the deftness of storytelling more closely and marvel at how it all fell in place so precisely. There is instant gratification there.
Kevin (Fahadh Faasil), the other main character, is Jimmy’s cousin, a techie who practically lives in virtual reality, holding exhaustive meetings over con call, furiously fighting with his colleague Sanjana over chats and WhatsApp calls. Again, Kevin’s characterisation is smartly outlined—he is successful, cocky, insolent, indulges in casual flings and is an insomniac. During a group con call, he abuses Sanjana and blocks her when she reminds him of all the times he needed her help. But he has no qualms in unblocking her again and offering a casual apology when he needs her help again.
Considering the characters and their emotional upheavals are measured on the virtual space, you would think they may come across as superficial. But they are retained in all their complexities and vulnerabilities. The filmmakers have taken a relevant topic (girls from poor families being tricked into sex rackets in Dubai with the promise of a job) but the screenplay is so skilfully woven that till the moment it is revealed, we have no suspicion of Anumol’s trauma. Her mysterious backstory (the last 40 minutes will keep you on the edge of your seats) is unfolded, again with the help of hacking social media, voice notes and WhatsApp videos. And those portions are brilliantly and sensitively done (though they are still harrowing to watch).. Darshana is superlative as Anumol, her face a blend of naivety and integrity, investing thoroughly in the character’s graph. Roshan gets it bang-on—he vacillates between the besotted, anxious, and angry lover with practised ease. Fahadh’s contribution to Kevin is in how he embraces the character’s idiosyncrasies, unpleasantness, and those lighter emotional moments. Look out for that scene where his large brown eyes well up as he watches Anumol’s video—nothing showy, just a teardrop from his left eye that is swiftly rubbed away. So beautifully poignant. And I loved that end note. Perhaps it warrants a spin-off movie for Kevin.