On the busy day of a celebratory function in an apartment building, nine people end up stuck in the building’s elevator. All of them are, in some way, connected with a mysterious woman (Meghna Raj), who ends up dead on top of the elevator.
Okay, so that sounds like a bit of a spoiler, especially since we are not sure what has happened to the mysterious woman in question until just before the interval, when an attempt to escape from the stuck elevator reveals her unfortunate presence atop it to everyone inside (including her own son, who thinks she’s just sleeping). But to be honest, Up & Down doesn’t really get moving until the discovery of the dead body – it’s at this point that the Commissioner of Police, Siyaad (K. B. Ganesh Kumar, whose son, Devamaran, plays the little boy), begins an investigation into the death from inside the elevator. It’s an interesting premise, and one that allows the confinement in a small space to play a part in helping peel back the layers of the mystery. Each person’s story of how they knew the woman and where they were prior to her disappearance and subsequent rediscovery plays a part in piecing together our understanding of who she was, and why she was such a frequent visitor to the building.
I’ve read that T.K. Rajeev Kumar decided not to include songs in the film (apart from a promotional number that appears in the film’s closing credits) because he didn’t want to break the rhythm of the film. It helps, but doesn’t completely deal with the problems of pacing in a film that doesn’t really find its rhythm until after the interval. Problematic, too, are the attempts to insert humour into the film, which mostly fall flat -- Kochu Preman’s drunken lift repairman could have, actually, provided the occasional welcome break in the tension if it had been directed with a more deft hand. A scene in which the writer Edathil (Prathap Pothen) is supposedly talking to the mystery woman whilst on a bus is totally ruined by allowing the antics of his seat neighbour to take our attention away from the conversation (true confession: I totally wanted to smack the actor pretending to sleep and crawl all over Prathap Pothen and tell him to dial it down a notch. Rarely do I feel so annoyed watching a film.)
And if I’m frustrated by stuff like this, it’s because, mostly, there are some good actors in this film, who mostly deliver good performances, and who are let down occasionally by the director’s decisions. That said -- just when I thought I’d figured out what was going on in Up & Down, the film delivered a serious plot twist that was just brilliant. And, then, it proceeded to do it a second time. Add to this Jomon Thomas’s beautiful cinematography – you would think that wouldn’t be something you’d particularly notice in a film shot mostly in a plywood box lined with metal, but Thomas’s work is outstanding, particularly in one of the film’s key scenes, where he manages to make a brutal moment incredibly beautiful at the same time.
Up & Down is one of those films that fell into my “mandatory Indrajith filmography watching” basket, and he doesn’t disappoint. His lift operator, Thampuran, is in the perfect position to know everyone’s secrets, but through his interactions with the mystery woman, we come to learn that he has secrets of his own, and, he’s not as well versed in the secrets of others as he thought he was, a mistake that could prove costly.