A disturbing tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to meet ends while also taking care of a father who was nothing but a nuisance all his life. Starring Sunny Wayne, Alencier Ley Lopez, Pauly Valsan, Ananya, and Grace Antony, and directed by Maju, “Appan” is a Malayalam language gripping drama about a highly dysfunctional family whose situation goes from bad to worse in no time.
Njoonju And His Family
“Appan” begins with Njoonju working at his rubber plantation, discussing with his family friend Varghese about the life Njoonu’s father, Ittychan, led before the accident that left him bedridden. Ittychan was a notorious womanizer who never led a decent life. Ittychan was busy being rowdy, chasing, harassing, and assaulting women of various ages. Fortunately for his family, Ittychan met with an accident that left him bedridden ever since. Stuck at home since the incident, Ittychan does not shy away from being verbally violent with his wife, son, daughter, and daughter-in-law. His wife, Kuttyamma, is aware of all the horrible things he has done since their marriage. Ittychan is a proud, egoistic, self-centered, narcissistic elderly man who hasn’t lost any of his appetite to be with women half his age, harassing them and grooming them to be his mistresses. Meanwhile, Njoonju tries his level best to be a better son who works hard on his rubber plantation to earn enough to run the household. Njoonju, his mother, and his wife are fed up with his father’s antics, and they all pray for his death which would leave them in peace. Most of the conversations in the house revolve around his imminent death. The villagers are also aware of the character of Ittychan, and they are willing to help Njoonju get rid of him for their peace and tranquility. Njoonju’s wife, Rosy, goes out of her way to help her mother-in-law and husband with taking care of Ittychan, who has no boundaries when it comes to conversation and disrespects all of his family members. Njoonju’s emotional and mental health has taken a hit thanks to the constant abuse by his father since he was a young kid. For humanity’s sake, he does not abandon his father. He knows he has a responsibility towards his father, mother, and wife, but his respect for his bedridden father keeps dwindling day after day. Njoonju does not stop himself from cursing his father and making him realize that Ittychan is always a looming burden. Ittychan has not calmed down since the paralysis, and that bothers Njoonju and his family. Njoonju goes out of his way to provide for his father, but all goes in vain, for Ittychan never appreciates any of the efforts. Frustrated, Njoonju goes out of his way to give it back to his father.
Njoonju’s sister Molykutty drops by because Christmas is approaching. Molykutty is initially in full-on denial mode regarding her father’s past and present, but soon she realizes Ittychan has become a liability rather than someone who can be sympathized with. Molykutty gets to see in person the number of curses Ittychan hurls onto her mother, brother, and brother’s family. Molykutty initially claims that her mother and daughter-in-law cannot take care of him, but soon she comes to know the hell she has walked into. Bedridden, Ittychan is now visited by his old girlfriends. Ittychan’s wife is ashamed and angry at the woman as well as her husband for disrespecting her in this manner. Njoonju also makes it clear to her father not to entertain his previous mistresses for his mother’s sake. Njoonju frankly feels burdened to be the only person taking care of the household, carrying the burden of the kind of legacy his father is leaving behind. Njoonju is always questioned by his family, and he questions himself if he will ever turn into the monster that his father is. He is tired of justifying himself to his family and society that he is nowhere close to how Ittychan is. Njoonju is a good father to his child and makes sure he will not be what Ittychan was to Njoonju. He is tired of the antics thrown by his father, who is thankless and ungrateful to his own family.
‘Appan’: Ending Explained – Will Njoonju Go Miles To Protect His Toxic Father?
Ittychan soon reveals that he has named all his property to Sheela, the woman living next door. He mentions this to his family to bring her home so that he can give his children whatever they want by convincing her to give up her inheritance. Ittychan’s wife is livid, but daughter Molykutty, who is keen to get some property in her name, convinces Sheela and welcomes her home with the utmost respect and dignity. Molykutty does that happily, only to realize Ittychan’s second wife is Sheela, and this is his way of tricking his family into accepting Sheela into the family. Ittychan asks Sheela to live with him, which she gladly does. Sheela, so far, is assumed to be his mistress. His revelation that she is his second wife comes as a rude shock to everyone at home. Molykutty soon understands she won’t get an ounce from her family and leaves them without caring about their misery. Molykutty turns out to be as selfish as her father, who doesn’t care about what her family wants and never offers to help them financially and emotionally.
Sheela moves in with Ittychan and starts taking care of him day and night. Ittychan’s family makes a separate area for her to cook and clean, and they do not bother speaking to her. Sheela takes all the bad behavior coming her way most steadfastly. She takes care of Ittychan even though he is abusive to her most of the time. Sheela, slowly and steadily, starts forming a good rapport with Njoonju’s kid and his wife, Rosy. Rosy also starts sympathizing with her situation. Sheela turns out to be so much better than the family had anticipated. Sheela starts sympathizing with the family as well and informs them that Ittychan moved his leg a little bit, which comes as a horror to everyone. Sheela is a character that has shades of gray; she is a docile person who starts thinking about Ittychan’s family as well. Since she has no one to go back to, she considers taking all the abuse coming her way from Ittychan and his family. Ittychan’s family soon understands her circumstances and starts opening up to her and becoming more accepting of her.
Ittychan soon comes to know of his arch nemesis Kuriakose who is out of parole, and there is a high chance he will come by to kill him. Ittychan is scared, and so is his friend Varghese. Varghese, out of sheer worry, kills himself, while Ittychan is too much of a coward to do anything for himself or the family. One of the local teachers and Ittychan’s illegitimate son informs him of Kuriakose and that Ittychan’s days are numbered. Ittychan himself conveys to Sheela that she can sleep with Kuriakose to let go of the enmity. Sheela, disgusted by his behavior, threatens to kill him, and Ittychan starts verbally and physically abusing her. On Christmas Eve, Kuriakose finally comes to kill Ittychan, but Njoonju stops him from murdering his father. Ittychan yells at Kuriakose to kill his son and take the women of his family away with him. Sheela loses her mind at the thought of the line Ittychan crosses to save himself while letting go of his family, just barely surviving. Sheela, in a rage, kills him. Njoonju decides not to let Sheela go to jail and decides to inform the village that he died of a heart attack. Ittychan, till the last breath, was a selfish man. A man who would see his son die but is not ready to own up to the mistakes he has made in the past. He thinks he can take care of himself without his family around and conveniently ignores being grateful to his family, who have sacrificed practically everything to take care of him. Ittychan is a prime example of a narcissistic abuser who never feels guilty nor apologizes for his actions. Njoonju, his mother, wife, and kid, and Ittychan’s second wife, Sheela, are classic examples of abuse victims who are unable to break the cycle out of the sheer humanity left in them. Njoonju vows to be a better father to his son and yearns to live a life where he is not known as Ittychan’s son but just as Njoonju. Sheela’s father was murdered by Ittychan, yet she stays with him for shelter, food, and clothing he provided. She had no other choice but to live with him and surrender to the fact that she wouldn’t be able to break his cycle of abuse.
“Appan” is a fantastic tale of a highly dysfunctional family. The screenplay shows in the rawest and most realistic fashion how verbal and mental abuse affects three generations of a family, and it is up to one generation to break this cycle of abuse to live peacefully and for the next generation to understand that abuse is not the solution to living a content life. Written by Maju and R. Jayakumar, “Appan” does not shy away from the brutality of a dysfunctional family. Not one person in the family or the village wants Ittychan to be alive. That is the amount of hatred everyone carries for him. The screenplay drags a bit, and after a point, it feels like the writer is just beating around the bush to let us know what a horrible human Ittychan is. The climax of the film is satisfying and does not tone down the brutal angle. The performances of Alencier Lopez, Sunny Wayne, Ananya, Pauly Valsan, and Grace Antony are superlative. Not once did it feel out of place or over the top. The movie is filled with tense moments, which are made better by the actors. Radhika Radhakrishnan as Sheela broke my heart and soul for the performance she pulled off and the layers her character had. Brilliant stuff by the team who tell a story that does not have a happy ending, a story where there is no redemption, for, in real life, no one changes. People just live the way they want to. “Appan” is a must-watch.
“Appan” is now streaming on SonyLIV with subtitles.