19(1)(a) is a 2022 Indian Malayalam drama movie written and directed by debutant Indhu V.S. Starring Nithya Menen, Vijay Sethupathi, and Indrajith Sukumaran. The movie is produced by Anto Joseph and Neeta Pinto. The film marks the debut of Vijay Sethupathi in a character role in Malayalam and his second Malayalam film after Marconi Mathai. The film was released directly on the OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar on July 29, 2022.
19 (1) (a): Movie Synopsis
“19 (1) (A)” opens with Penkutty going to the xerox shop she runs. It used to belong to her father and now she manages it. She leads a very mundane life, set in a routine. She wakes up in the morning, cooks lunch for himself and her father, and then goes to the store. Halfway through, the power goes out and she has to go to another xerox shop across town to prepare a client’s order.
Penkutty has ambitions to further her studies and find a better job, but she is bogged down by responsibilities. Her father has lost interest in taking care of himself or the house since his wife’s death, and it’s up to Penkutty to pick up the pieces now.
She has a friend, Fathima, who is about to get married but doesn’t want to. Amidst all this, she gets a customer, Gauri Shankar, who gives her the manuscript and asks her to keep a copy ready. He tells her he’ll be back later to pick it up.
It turned out that he went to see his sister, but did not find her at home. The next day, Penkutty sees on the news that he has been shot dead. This shakes her up and she is completely confused about what she has to do. She later sees an interview with investigating officer Ismail Ibrahim. Gauri Shankar was a writer and human rights activist and was shot dead to prevent the publication of his writings.
But on the day of his death, he sent a message to Ismail that ‘his words were safe.’ Penkutty understands that he had spoken to her about the manuscript. It also clicks that he expected to die and was taking care of his last affairs in this way.
Penkuttu finds the name of the publishing house that published his previous works — KM Publications. She goes there to see if she can get his latest work printed through them, but something about the place and the people makes her leave immediately. Editor Anand was a friend of Gauri Shankar. In a flashback, we see that he met him and took him to dinner.
On their trip, he told him that he needed to start writing something other than what he was currently doing to increase his growth. But Gauri Shankar refuses and Anand angrily leaves him in the middle of the road. When Gauri Shankar reaches home, he finds that his house has been raided and his work has been burnt. Luckily he had a spare stashed away. Obviously, Anand was in league with whoever did it.
It was also probably Gauri Shankar’s first clue that he would be the next target as he had no plans of giving up. We see several more flashbacks where he is giving a speech at a meeting. He says we have to know ourselves first before we start telling people what we think.
Back in the present, Penkutty begins to read his manuscript and begins a journey of introspection into his own life. On Fatima’s wedding day, she asks her if she ever tried to tell her family that she didn’t want to get married. Fathima tells her that it is easier to listen to them. At this point, we understand something fundamental. Freedom of speech and expression is not just about expressing our thoughts and opinions to the state.
It is what influences our decisions and the direction our lives take. Fathima’s house did not have a favorable enough environment for her to express herself. And this eventually pushes her into an unwanted marriage and potentially an unhappy life. Penkutty also goes to see Gauri Shankar’s sister understand the man better.
She discovers that he has given all his books to his niece. The act was a hint, though he later understood that he had expected death. When she returns that day, her father is waiting for her. On the second day, he takes over the duties he neglected for so long and goes to xerox. “19 (1) (a).”
19 (1) (a) Ending, Explained: What Happened At The End?
Penkutty understood the weight of responsibility on her shoulders. Seeing her friend’s plight, understanding the manuscript, and noting instances in her own life that were affected by her silence and speaking out, she knows how important it is that the book is published. She makes several copies and sends them to Gauri Shankar’s sister, his publisher, the officer-in-charge, and a reporter for a TV channel.
The book was called “Karuppu” which means “black”. It contained the stories of nine people who were murdered. The story was mostly considered folklore, but it happened. The skin color all was black.
Gauri Shankar’s Karuppu was an account of caste-based atrocities. And he was killed by elements who didn’t want it to become popular discourse so they could maintain the status quo. After doing her job, Penkutty decided to follow her dreams and apply to study law.
As the shutters of the shop close, we hear the sound of a scooter, similar to the one that killed Gauri Shankar. But we don’t hear gunshots. So despite our doubts, we will hope and say that Penkutty is alive and chasing his dreams. “19 (1) (a).”