'Let him suffer. Suffering is personal,' says Kanchana, in the role of a grandma to Vijay Deverakonda in Arjun Reddy as he deals with the repercussions of his bouts of anger in crucial junctures in his life. What if a much-sanitised (read politically correct) version of Arjun Reddy has to deal with the suffering of the most-loved one? That is Igloo in a nutshell. Igloo, at its core, is about the biggest cliche of Indian cinema; the detection of cancer to one of its primary protagonists and how the people around the character deal with it. Oh, another melodrama in the offing? Not quite. The film's director Bharath Mohan takes up the most predictable trope of a melodrama and it's hard to recollect any tale in the recent past that has talked of suffering as delicately or passionately.
Igloo's initial portions don't quite hint at the volcano that's to unleash at us later. Twin-sisters Aishu and Vaishu, and their mostly grumpy father Shiva live by a region dominated by its natural corridor and enjoy life as it comes. Regular catfights between the sisters, poor academic grades and their problems of bed-wetting apart, it's a smooth-going existence for the trio. However there are occasional questions that the children blurt out, 'why don't we have a mother?', to which the dad prefers to answer in the negative. A catastrophe to one of the characters becomes a significant trigger to take us back to the love story of the parents. While the premise makes us feel like it's the story of the kids, the narrative takes a distinct trajectory.
Ramya is the yin to Shiva's yang. Ramya completes Shiva in many ways, she knows to handle his hot-blooded ways, channelise his behaviour and naturally, there's unmistakable passion between the two. Shiva, despite his problems, is relatively 'decent' for someone with anger-issues – an upright architect at work, a gem of a brother who stands up for his divorced, stranded sister and has reasonable patience (he waits a lot till he goes berserk). Yet, there is trouble in the paradise for Shiva, especially with Ramya's father. The two can't stand each other, the father raises a question about his sister's presence in the house, questions his character. And the relationship undergoes rough weather and wait, the girl's pregnant. Though these episodes and the integrity of the guy indicate a certain inspiration from Arjun Reddy, the filmmaker's story takes a different course.
Shiva receives the ultimate test of his life when he realises his beloved is detected with blood cancer. That's where the film's true colours come along. The suffering is breathtakingly real, Ramya completely disregards any element of sympathy thrown at her. Her love, now husband, is a changed man, and yet has a tough time dealing with her pregnancy and her fragile health condition at once. She can't tolerate her chemo-sessions, blames her husband for not letting her abort the unborn kid and even doesn't mind a shot of morphine to handle the pain (that could potentially kill her child). She ticks things off her bucket list one after the other, swims at a beach in the middle of a night, watches porn with her husband and stays at an igloo in the middle of the mountains. Her mood-swings are way too erratic, but the sense of realism and the patience of the male protagonist as he deals with it is beautiful. We stay on the same page with the characters and deal with their trauma throughout.
There couldn't have been a better title than Igloo for this outing as Shiva becomes the only source of 'warmth' for Ramya amid the 'cold' vagaries of life. A circular narrative links the present and the past of the characters and the impact is strong if not spellbinding. The portrayal of child characters is bitter-sweet and rightly so – there's no forceful cushioning or sugarcoating to make them seem like an epitome of innocence. The good part about Igloo is about the seamless integration of the crafts involved with it – nothing is meant to be a standout from the rest, it's a snapshot of life as it comes. Though the CG aspects of the narrative leave a lot to be desired, the emotional pull is strong enough to counter its negatives. The lead actors Amjad Khan and Anju Kurien (though aren't powerhouse performers) are the film's pillars capturing the 'everydayness' of relationships quite well – the highs, the lows, the passion, the mood-swings and the fights. Bharath Mohan gives us a film that we often root for and ZEE5's digital library has undoubtedly got richer with this addition.