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House Owner movie review: Lakshmi Ramakrishnan keeps the indie flag flying with a poignant, riveting drama
At a time when Kollywood is dominated by larger than life masala movies comes Lakshmi Ramakrishnan’s <em>House Owner,</em> a poignant love story set against the Chennai floods of 2015. Ramakrishnan is an independent filmmaker who has always taken the road less travelled and prefers to do character-based, script-driven films. She has made meaningful and women-centric films like <em>Aarohanam</em> (2012) and <em>Ammani</em> (2016) which explore the emotional journey of its characters, and are inspired by real life incidents. The beauty of <em>House Owner</em> is that it a simple story based on the lives of certain people affected by the 2015 Chennai floods, which almost drowned the city. It is ironic that the film releases at a time when a parched Chennai is facing its biggest water crisis in history. In a way, the film is an unconventional story and talks about love and compassion in challenging times. It is well made with fine performances from its lead actors and an outstanding background score by Ghibran. In real life, Lakshmi is an actress who also hosts a successful reality television show. She has been a champion for women’s rights and gender equality. Vasudevan (Aadukalam Kishore) is a retired Indian Army officer suffering from Alzheimer's and is unable to recognise himself in his bedroom mirror. He even forgets the existence of his caring and loving wife Radha (Sri Ranjani), who looks after him like a child, giving minute instructions in detail. The director has superbly conceived and written her characters and their relationships from the first scene itself. The flashback scenes are woven into the narrative seamlessly which brings out the deep love of Vasu and Radha set against the Palakkad Iyer milieu with young actors (Pasanga Kishore and Lovelyn Chandrasekhar). The unconditional love between the lead characters is brought out poignantly and realistically as the story goes back and forth. The older couple live in an isolated house while the situation outside becomes alarming as the flood waters rise ominously. They have an emotional connect to their house and refuse to vacate it when help comes from their daughter and friends. Lakshmi Ramakrishnan’s writing shines here as she is able to connect real time with memories from the past in what basically is a survival film. The triumph of <em>House Owner</em> is in its honest writing and characters that look and behave realistically. Lakshmi’s casting is near perfect, considering the fact that she does not run after stars. Kishore delivers a stunning performance in the title role as the patient who cannot understand why he should vacate his house as the water levels begin to rise. ‘Pasanga’ Kishore and Lovelyn Chandrasekhar as the young couple aptly cast due to their freshness. But like in all Lakshmi films, it is the women who anchor the film. Here, it is Sri Ranjani who steals the show as Radha, and is able to project emotions without any hysterics. The film has been made on a shoestring budget but is technically sound with great camerawork by Krishna Sekhar. Ghibran’s music, too, which elevates the mood and tension in the climax. Lakshmi Ramakrishnan's casting in House Owner is near perfect, considering the fact that she does not run after stars.