Idam(Abode) 2019 movie – An ode to Elder Abuse

Idam(Abode) is a Malayalam film, directed by Jaya Jose Raj, about Elder abuse. The film weaves a mystical connection between fantasy and reality while trying to portray the problems of Bhanu (Seema Biswas), the protagonist.

There aren’t many films that talk in detail about the problems of loneliness during the old age and elder abuse. The handful of films that tend to talk about these issues often become preachy at some point of its running time and thus become a dread to watch. Films like Pani, Baaram, and Jalasamadhi are a few films to mention. ‘Idam’ gets a special place on the list.

Idam (Abode) takes a different turn. It links fantasy to reality and comes with a convincing story that turns out to be gripping at places apart from portraying its prime subject. 

That’s what life is all about – If you make it, you make it.

The mystery man, Idam

Idam – An introduction

Idam (Abode) is a Malayalam film directed by Jaya Jose Raj, known for his documentaries and docu-fiction serials. Idam (Abode) marks his first full-length feature film. With a strong subject in hand, the movie tries not to get too affectionate towards its concept.

Rather, it weaves a synergistic plot to infer its ideology to its audience. In fact, throughout its running time of 83 minutes, it keeps the things in action with the help of this subplot.

Despite being a feature film, it clearly shows the traces of its origin from a director who shoots documentaries. The film gets a docu-fictional treatment from its very initial staging. 

Idam (Abode) - 1
The mystic person who roams around Bhanu’s home

Why I chose to watch Idam?

Now, I chose to watch this movie owing to three main reasons –

  1. It is a Malayalam film.
  2. A debutant has directed the movie.
  3. MUBI has this movie in its library.

Malayalam movies share a prominent percentage of the independent non-commercial films from India. These films from Kerala have two things in common – a simple story and a beautiful ambiance. These reasons are compelling enough to watch Malayalam movies.

Also, from my experience, any indie movie directed by a debutant and added in MUBI is a safe pick to watch. Films like Radiopetti, Oralpokkam have a unique charm to them that we could seldom get from films of experienced directors.

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Bhanu – The breath of Idam

The character of Bhanu gets introduced in a non-fussy manner albeit with mystical elements surrounding her. She lives alone in a big house that is home to many florae and a little fauna.

Her house, like most of the older generation architecture, is grand in all sense. As she gazes through her window using a binocular, she finds a couple who seem to live by the road. As we get into the film, we find out that gazing through the window frequently is one of her daily chores. 

The entire film happens in a single day. It captures the events happening on Bhanu’s 70th birthday. Her sons are to bring their children to her home to celebrate her birthday. She waits eagerly for the moment to come – she wanders around the house in haste, she looks out of her door on hearing every other sound. She asks her friend to buy her glass bangles. She is excited to see her grandchildren.

Bhanu’s excitement for her grand children

Bhanu gets an initial impression as a strong woman. As she roams around her garden, she reminds us of our elders who seem to have this knack of knowing about things related to plants and nature, a knowledge gained without the internet exploitation. Bhanu understands the needs of her house and her garden. She knows which plants to use for preparing lip-smacking recipes and which are poisonous and best avoided.

Idam (Abode) - Bhanu waiting for her grandchildren.
Idam (Abode) – Bhanu waiting for her grandchildren.

All she has to do now is wait – Wait for her sons’ vehicle sounds – Wait for the excited shouts of her grandchildren. And the moments occur one after the other. The only difference being she couldn’t hear the children’s excited voices. Her first son comes in a big car alone – his wife and children are busy with the school work. Her second son arrives in a two-wheeler – his children and wife are busy preparing his younger son’s operation. Both have another year of reasons for not bringing their children.

Most of the older people love spending their time with their grandchildren. In countries like India, family bonds hold people tighter than anything else. Of course, times are changing. India is on its fight to get the recognition of the world as a modern country and hence follows the western principles. People now prefer to live in a small family in a congested flat – rather than spend time roaming around in a large house with a dozen people nearby. 

Enter the trouble

Bhanu could not bear it this time. She breaks down in front of her sons – she is desperate to see her grandchildren. When her sons don’t oblige, she becomes frustrated. She knew her sons were keen on taking the property from her, which she doesn’t want to happen. She bursts out to her sons that she is planning to marry a second time.

Idam (Abode) - Bhanu's elder son
Idam (Abode) – Bhanu’s elder son

Shocked, their sons laugh at her joke. But, when they understand that she isn’t joking, they sit down and begin to think. A second marriage would mean that they won’t inherit her properties in its entirety. They would then have to deal legally with that family. So they draft a plan to make sure that they get their share. Both of them call their wives and ask them to come to their mother’s home immediately – with their children, of course. 

Birds smile I when I smile but they seldom cry when I cry

Bhanu, Idam

The plot begins to divert at this point – Not an entire diversion, rather a variance that takes the story towards the final act of the movie. Bhanu’s elder son sees how a particular plant’s fruit could kill a large animal. He sees the dead animal while walking around the woods. To confirm his doubts, he hears Bhanu tell one of her grandchildren not to pluck the fruit. His eyes seem to convey to us his intentions. Now we understand that the entire family is here not to celebrate Bhanu’s birthday. 

The twist of tales?

With their motive now revealed, we begin to anticipate the consequent scenes. When we are sure of how the movie is going to end, we are in for a shock. The mystery of the film’s ending is something that each one can interpret uniquely. Though there are plenty of scenes that seem to aid the intention of the elder son, there is an equal number of mysterious scenes that oppose that thought. 

Idam (Abode) - Bhanu's sons plan together to take their shares as soon as possible
Idam (Abode) – Bhanu’s sons plan together to take their shares as soon as possible

What the director is trying to convey at last is a mystery to ponder. He weaves an intriguing plot to support the key intention of the problems and sacrifices faced by the elderly. The subplot, at times, takes our attention from the problem in question to its world of mysteries. In fact, that is one of the key elements portrayed in the film throughout. The magical line between reality and imagination gets shortened.

Sometimes, Birds understand people’s mind better

Bhanu, Idam

While trying to portray an old lady, the director takes ample support from nature, mystery, and fantasy. By clubbing these elements, he puts forth a daring adventure that leaves us wondering what we have gained out of the film. Many a time, the point where the suspense should break gets skipped. Yet as the moment of completion, a dot never arrives. The dot never arrives even after the end credits begin to roll.

Further thoughts?

When we are sure of the son’s intention to poison Bhanu, we get a scene where they all have a meal together. When we are sure of the good intentions of the tiny man, we have a scene where he tries to drown a small boy. The movie tries to close on the gap between our thoughts and action. The presence of the mystical tiny man who roams around Bhanu’s house (and trees) in itself is a mystery to uncover. What purpose does the man solve with his presence in this movie? Comment your thoughts and interpretations of the movie below.

Check out the other articles on Films from across the world.

Idam (Abode) Poster
TitleIdam (Abode)
DirectorJaya Jose Raj

Also read – 50 international movies to watch this year

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