It is rare to come across a good horror comedy, especially in the Malayalam cinema scene. It is not often that you get to watch a film that brings you not just comedy but also satire, divinity, and the belief in supernatural occurrences. Does any of that even exist, to begin with? Written and directed by Jithu Madhavan, “Romancham,” which means goosebumps, is based on a real story of seven bachelors who are trying to build a life of their own in Bangalore in the year 2007. Amidst all the chaos in their lives, the men decide to conduct a séance, but does it go south pretty quickly? Does a playful séance activity turn into something totally scary, or is it just a part of their imagination?
The Bachelors Being Themselves
“Romancham” begins with Jibin Madhavan partially waking up in the ICU of a hospital in Bangalore when he is told that he has been suffering from meningitis for a week. This is the first time he has regained consciousness, and he is told that no visitors are allowed to meet him because of his condition. Jibin insists on meeting his friends or being moved to another room, but the doctor makes it clear that unless his vision improves, he will not be moved out of the ICU. Jibin is desperate to meet his friends as if he wants to convey something important to them. He tries to trick the on-duty nurse into letting him move into the room, but she refuses to fall for his antics. Jibin seems very restless, and he is insistent on wanting to meet his friends at the earliest. The nurse is curious to know what exactly must be the reason, and that’s when Jibin recalls his tale of encountering the unseen in the past few weeks.
Seven of them live on the outskirts of the city, trying to make a decent life. Jibin, Rivin, Niroop, Shijappan, Mukesh, Karikuttan, and Soman are the residents of the house and are trying to make their lives bearable. Out of all of them, only Rivin and Karikuttan have full-time jobs; the rest are just trying to scrape by, while Niroop is waiting for an appointment letter from an IT company, something he hopes would change his life for the better. All of them have remained friends for a few years and somehow manage to live life in the most modest way possible. The men, being themselves, do not live in the most spick and span manner, which angers Niroop, who decides to assign each task to someone in the house so that it’s not just one person burdened to do everything. This division and distribution of tasks is not accepted by the rest of the gang, but they are forcefully asked to take up the task if they want to continue living in this house. Niroop is tired of being the father figure in the house, nagging and scolding such grown-up men to carry out basic things at home. Most of the men live life carelessly; amongst all of them, only Niroop is the decision-maker, and Rivin is financially responsible.
The boys always resort to playing handball in the evening, which Jibin resents as he does not know how to play the game. One day, out of spite, he deflated the ball and headed to a friend’s place. At his friend’s place, he sees a group conducting a séance using an Ouija board in the hope of finding a soul they can talk to. Realizing this is something the group can do at home as a group activity, he brings a carrom board and creates the atmosphere for a séance. The whole point of Jibin bringing this up is that he wants to feel included in all the fun evening activities that the men indulge in. Jibin wants to feel validated and like someone who contributes to the house in some way or another. The group decides to agree with Jibin’s idea of making the evening all the more fun.
Rivin, being the religious one of the lot, refuses to be a part of something as sinister as Ouija, which he claims is anti-Christ. He is a staunchly religious person and is against anything that is mentioned as evil in his religious text. After keeping him out of the Ouija board activity, the men began their quest to find out if the spirits would come down and answer their questions. The men here at home are also, for lack of a better word, jobless, and this is probably the only activity that would take their mind off their entire day of being at home and doing absolutely nothing.
‘Romancham’ Ending Explained –
The men store away all the religious symbols at home in Rivin’s room because the rules state that any religious symbol would restrict any spirit from coming down and answering their questions. The boys at home take this game seriously, except Jibin, because he is organizing this activity just out of sheer boredom at being left out. As they begin their séance, Jibin realizes no spirit has come down to move the glass on the board, and he and one of his roommates, Shijappan, start moving the glass on their own to make the rest of them believe that the séance is working. It is important for Jibin for the séance to work to make himself feel important in their home. Jibin would do anything so far to make himself feel like someone who is bringing the group together, even though Niroop is the only decision-maker in the house.
As the séance progresses, they start asking questions. Jibin and Shijappan come up with the name Anamika, which makes the rest of them believe that the spirit is a woman, and they continue asking her various questions, to which Anamika starts giving the right answers. Answers of which, technically, only Jibin and Shijappan are aware. Their séance part becomes popular among their friends. On one occasion, their friends asked a question about the pet cat. Anamika ends up having the right answer, which puts Jibin and Shijappan on the back foot and wondering if the spirit has descended into their homes. Anamika made this place her home and probably never left when asked to go back after the séance was done. Jibin starts worrying if the game is getting out of hand, but their popularity spreads like wildfire, and people from across the city come by to seek answers from Anamika. Their friend, who is an expert in this game, lets them know that the spirit should not be asked any personal questions, and they should not call the same spirit repeatedly. Jibin is unperturbed by the rules because he is happy to see the crowd gathering at his place.
Unfortunately for all of them, Anamika predicted a person named Mathew would die. They check up on their friend Matthew, but thankfully nothing happens to him. But their neighbor’s father, who was also named Matthew, passes away, making the boys wonder if they should continue playing this game after all. Even Rivin admits that he has been having blackouts and losing a sense of direction while heading home from work. Rivin, too, starts experiencing something odd happening at home since they began their séance activity. They bring their friend, who is an expert in the game, but things go south with him as well. Niroop, being the sole decision-maker at home, decides to end the nuisance once and for all, which all of them oblige to. These people are tired of seeing the negative impact of playing Ouija at home and bringing Anamika into their lives. They want to get done with all the weird and bad things that have been going on like the constant fights between them and Rivin’s conscious mind getting affected. Getting rid of the board was the only apparent solution.
But now that this one nuisance is gone, Jibin’s friend Sinu Solomon comes by to live with them, because recently, he has been through an episode that no one in the family can sort out. To give him a change of scenery, they ask Jibin to make sure Sinu stays with them for a while. Sinu is a simple boy who is close to Jibin. But as his stay begins, Sinu starts exhibiting weird behaviors including staring at a wall until he is physically shaken and speaking to someone in the middle of the night. Jibin and his friends start noticing his weird behavior, and they maintain a distance from him. Sinu sleepwalks in the middle of the night, and he is followed by Jibin and Niroop when he points out the place where Anamika used to live. This one instance was enough for the rest of the group to convince Jibin to ask Sinu to leave their home for good. Niroop, who is supposed to be the skeptic of the lot, is also convinced that there is something wrong with the way Sinu behaves, and that he will have to leave the premises right away. Sinu is politely asked by Jibin to leave their home, and he agrees to do the same.
With Sinu gone, Anamika’s spirit starts wrecking their home as many unnatural and unexpected things start happening again. Rivin again starts forgetting the way back home, and Karikuttan ends up losing his job at the petrol pump because, absentmindedly, he ends up filling someone’s petrol tank with diesel. Karikuttan also does not know what made him blank out and make a silly mistake that cost him his job. These incidents kind of start taking a toll on everyone at home, and they are sure there has been something off about them since the Ouija board games they started playing. All of them lose their minds and try to leave their home as soon as possible. Jibin, on the other hand, just out of pure worry, ends up suffering from an extreme fever, which develops into meningitis. The men also wonder if all of these problems descended on them after they started toiling with the Ouija board or if the house was always haunted. They just nudged in such a manner that Anamika now refuses to slow down.
Jibin ends up in the hospital because of the illness, and he is soon shifted to a room after showing signs of recovery. He informs the nurse that while going unconscious due to his fever, the last thing he saw was the spirit of a woman getting into his bag. The last scene of “Romancham” has Jibin asking his friends to get hold of the bag, and that is when he is informed that Sinu is back in town to help Jibin with his recovery, and he will be getting the bag for him. Because Jibin had a very high fever, there was a chance he hallucinated something before becoming unconscious. There is no surety that Anamika exists in the home for them to be triggered about. Or even if she existed, her power would have been neutralized by Sinu’s presence at home. The men hardly went through any major incidents during the duration of Sinu’s stay at their homes. Part two will surely give the audience an idea of what led to all these incidents at their home in Bangalore and what role Sinu plays in the long run.
Anamika had already lingered around their home for years; the Ouija board allowed her to get in because the game involved inviting ghosts into their homes. Anamika never left the house, which led to plenty of untoward incidents that kept happening to not just them but the people around their home as well. Anamika never left their home because they kept calling her all the time, and as per the rule, every time, a different ghost must be invited, which Jibin and his friends never followed. Sinu’s arrival in their home led to Anamika neutralizing the power because Sinu became the opposing power that rendered her powerless. Sinu could not reveal much about himself, but with his arrival, there was no untoward incident except the fact that he acted strangely. With Sinu gone, Anamika regained her power, which led to a repeat of what was going on before, eventually forcing them to leave the premises. Sinu is now back in their lives, which will surely help the viewers understand that the man has some powers that will control the wreck that Anamika causes. Jibin’s bag, which he claims is where Anamika rests, and Sinu taking charge of the bag show that he will probably help them get rid of her spirit.
The other theory could be that this was just a series of untoward incidents that took place, and probably a lot of them were just a psychological reaction to the fear that comes with knowing a spirit might descend into your home. The mind works in peculiar ways, and what the men went through is just a projection of their fear. Sinu also might be suffering from some psychological disorder since the kidnapping incident that happened to him. His psychological issues might be leading him to behave in a certain way. There might be psychological explanations for the same if anybody tried to consult one.
Since the film is a satirical horror comedy, the first theory makes more sense than the second one. But again, since “Romancham” is based on true incidents that occurred to a group of bachelors, there is a genuine chance that the second theory is plausible. If there is a second part, which was announced in the end credits of “Romancham,” it will be interesting to know how the story will be taken forward from here on.
“Romancham” is probably a breath of fresh air in the comedy genre, and it probably pushed the boundaries of this genre as well by bringing in elements that have not been used in any comedy films in the past. The direction was a bit haphazard, but the story of the film kept it interesting till the end. The open-ended climax was neatly done, and it increased the anticipation for the sequel. “Romancham” was made by a new team, and Jithu Madhavan spearheaded the team quite well. The actors in it, too, are new faces, except for Soubin Shahir and Arjun Ashokan. All of them deliver top-notch performances, and the comic timing of all of them is impeccable. At no point does the comedy feel stale and repetitive; it goes with the flow and does not get lost in the crowd. This film had a great run in the theaters, and it would be good to watch it all over again because it is worth your time.
“Romancham” is a 2023 Malayalam horror comedy, now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar with subtitles.