Self-esteem and self-importance are qualities that make one’s ego, which apart from showcasing one’s true self, protects the identity they have created over time. So when one’s ego is threatened, it’s natural for the primal instincts to take over in the fight to gain a sense of superiority over the other. And when two headstrong, egoistic individuals lock horns, things can get diabolical. That’s the premise of Ramkumar Balakrishnan’s Parking, which pits a fantastic MS Bhaskar against Harish Kalyan in his best performance to date.
This drama is about an elderly man and a youngster who are tenants sharing two different floors of an individual house, fighting over a parking space. What starts as a fight for space escalates into a full-blown ego clash between the two that costs them more than just their mental peace. In due course, Eshwar (Harish) and Ilamparuthi’s (MS Bhaskar) duel brings out their ugliest sides, showing themselves and those around them the monsters they’ve transformed into.
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Parking works brilliantly when it sticks to the core of its simple premise. But when it slightly deviates to show us a glimpse of Eshwar’s personal and professional lives — following his pregnant wife Athika (Indhuja Ravichandran) and his deteriorating efficiency at work — the film slows down. Thankfully, director Ramkumar keeps these scenes to a bare minimum and neatly connects them to the main plot in the end.
Director: Ramkumar Balakrishnan
Cast: MS Bhaskar, Harish Kalyan, Indhuja Ravichandran, Rama, Prathana Nathan
Runtime: 128 minutes
Storyline: Two tenants let their egos get the better of them when they start fighting for a much-coveted parking spot
Just a couple of years after Arjun Reddy, which glorified a flawed lead character, Harish starred in Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum, which refused to romanticise the flaws of his character. His role in Parking feels like an extension of that as he snugly fits into the character of a well-mannered techie who can play dirty when succumbs to his emotions.
What comes as a revelation is MS Bhaskar; the veteran brings his A-game in playing Ilamparuthi. Right from pulling off the chutzpah as a high-ranking government officer at his workplace and the sheer display of male chauvinism in the name of being the patriarch of the house, to stepping down to the level of making his daughter lie to the cops just to see his new nemesis get into trouble, he portrays the role with the panache that’s unique to him. If he made us laugh in films like Irumbukkottai Murattu Singam, Guru En Aalu and Soodhu Kavvum, and astonished us with serious roles in titles like Payanam, 8 Thottakkaland Taanakkaran, Parking joins the coveted list of Radha Mohan films like Mozhi that featured both those variations of the ace actor.
The film intensifies as the animosity between the men grows and these make for the best sequences of Parking. While the character arc of Ilamparuthi feels more fleshed out, the same cannot be said about Eshwar. The film neatly puts forth its take on how it’s the women of the house who suffer the consequences of the men’s impulsive decisions. And while it feels gratifying when Ilamparuthi’s wife (Rama) and daughter (Prathana Nathan) finally react, Athika doesn’t get her retribution.
Parking, which is sure to remind you of films like Ayyappanum Koshiyum, also gets predictable after a while and it leaves you pondering about the other options Eshwar could actually choose instead of fighting tooth and nail with Ilamparuthi. The altercation takes a darker turn towards the third act, making you wonder if they’re actually the results of the men’s ego trip or if the film’s genre has tripped from a drama into a thriller. But the film, whenever it loses the grip it holds our attention with, comes back with twice the power to restrain it. There’s even a neat nod to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining’.
Parking is a straightforward yet effective and almost realistic take on some of the issues middle-class families face and the toll it takes on people and those around them when they let their egos get the best of them. Thanks to a captivating screenplay, remarkably good cinematography and editing, and an exceptional lead cast, Parking is a lovely addition to the list of small-budget films that have had a dream run this year.
Parking will run in theatres from December 1