The loss of a loved one has the power to break us completely. The fact that a person’s life expectancy is ever-changing is something we are aware of. But when it happens to someone in our inner circle, we usually aren’t prepared to face the truth. Director Prasanth Vijay’s “Daayam,” aka “Inheritance,” opens with the emotional toll of death within a family without diving deep into the mechanics of a funeral. However, the evolving focus of the film brings out something else on the table. The film starts with the aftermath of a funeral that has affected two central characters – Kalyani and Raghu. Kalyani is seen to be a silent observer who wants to be left alone to digest a significant change in her life.

She is still shocked by the death of her mother (Renu), which has left her with an intense form of loneliness. Every object in her home brings out a memory connected to her mother. Naturally, this makes it harder for her to move on. The viewers perceive the grievance from the point of view of a young woman impacted by the collision of emotions within her mind. To draw the audience deeper into the journey of grief experienced by adolescents, the filmmaker skillfully focuses on Kalyani’s isolated times away from the scrutiny of her relatives.

One of the most striking aspects of Raghu’s character throughout the film is the way the director uses different events to illustrate Raghu’s personality. There appears to be a divided view of Raghu’s character, the deceased’s husband. An accusation that Raghu had abused his wife in the home is brought to light at one point. His family becomes involved in the matter as it develops into a legal matter.  To Raghu, it seems the adage, “Misfortunes never come singly,” holds even more weight. At the same time, we also witness a positive side of Raghu through his progressive mindset.

A scene where Raghu allows his daughter to perform the last rites at his wife’s funeral becomes the talk of the family. His relatives hold the belief that a female descendant performing a religious rite would prevent the deceased’s soul from resting in peace. At this juncture, one would reasonably wonder, “Is Raghu a man of integrity or a master in disguise?”. Layers of character study and a transformation in Raghu’s character drive the film’s trajectory toward an enigmatic conclusion, which viewers observe simultaneously.

Inheritance (Daayam, 2023) Movie Review - hof
Pradeep Kumar and Aathira Rajeev in Daayam (2023)

We also witness the inclusion of food as a reference to Renu’s talent and attachments. Upon finding a hidden recipe book written by Renu in the kitchen cupboard, Kalyani goes on a mission to cook dishes as it was prepared by her mother. In this reminiscing session, Kalyani’s belief that her mother is still alive through her cooking strengthens her. From Raghu’s point of view, a unique bond forms between him and his daughter over the dining table. Although Kalyani’s culinary skills are inferior to her mother’s, the family feels a comforting embrace regardless.

A form of happiness lingers between Raghu and Kalyani despite being in a challenging position. What I could decipher from this segment is the psychological pathway of finding a solution to survive the loss of a family member. There is also an analysis of female oppression that provides crucial context for the film’s plot. Initially, we witness how women are prohibited from religious rites during the funeral procession. Along the way, we also perceive the superstitious belief that a touch of a woman undergoing menstruation can defile anything. The relatives in the family represent the element of social-patriarchalism that holds tightly to the alleged piousness. Despite living in an era where women are scaling greater heights, the director emphasizes the obstinacy of some individuals who refuse to accept changes. In fact, such an oppressive culture doesn’t end there.

Halfway through the journey of experiencing the film, we are exposed to a much deeper oppression that comes unannounced. Here, multiple statements and questions arise about the film’s motive. “Is Raghu trying to reach acceptance of the death of his wife or tries to go further away from reality? Has the death of Renu affected Raghu psychologically to a point where it has altered his decision-making for the worse? Has the constant argument between Renu and Raghu in the past made Renu lonely? Is Raghu’s open display of masculinity a recent development, or has it always been there?  Would Kalyani still consider Raghu a father figure or just another egotistical man? Does Kalyani’s coming-of-age journey without her mother’s presence make her stronger?  The answer to these questions somehow remains a mystery.

“Inheritance,” which premiered at the 2023 MAMI Film Festival, is an introspective film that nudges us to reevaluate our trust system upon anyone, including our loved ones. This film somehow reminds us of the 2013 film ‘Ente’ by Rajesh Touchriver without the inclusion of a revenge theme in the plot. Some who have inspired us all along may transform or just not be who we expected them to be.

Perhaps death is the game-changer for these individuals to break themselves free from their cages of illusions. From a different perspective, a person who seemed to be always cheerful may have also suffered from depression for generations. Nevertheless, some individuals like Kalyani might choose silence to overcome constant hurdles. Just like the Buddhist saying goes, “That which is empty, everything is possible. That which is not empty, nothing is possible”. Kalyani might have just reached a higher level of acceptance at that instant.

★★★

Read More: Top 10 Indian Movies of 2023 (So Far)

Inheritance (2023) Movie Links: IMDb
The Cast of Inheritance (2023) Movie: Aathira Rajeev, Pradeep Kumar, Ranjini George
Inheritance (2023) Movie Genre: Drama, Runtime: 1h 21m

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