In Jeethu Joseph’s The 12th Man (2022), oversharing between friends leads to murder. Now here comes another Malayalam-language movie that makes a similar point: some things are best left unsaid.

Thamar KV’s Aayirathonnu Nunakal (1001 and One Lies), which has been premiered on Sony LIV, is set in Dubai. A group of friends assembles at a mansion where, on the encouragement of a lawyer, they proceed to reveal secrets about their partners.

Is the lawyer called Vakeel (Sudheesh Scaria) a troublemaker or an amateur therapist? As the night wears on, uncomfortable truths are laid bare and barbs are exchanged. Some ties are frayed, while others are strengthened.

“Isn’t this fun,” exclaims Salma (Shamla Hamza), one of the guests, who soon finds out that she has been badly wrong. A sub-plot revolves around the housemaid (Remya Suresh) and her harried husband (Zhinz Shan).

Aayirathonnu Nunakal (2023). Courtesy Salim Ahamed.

Thamar’s screenplay, written with Hashim Sulaiman, skilfully teases out the interpersonal dynamics between people who have known each for years. The tendency to take old pals for granted particularly riles Rajesh (Sudeep Koshy), who has a running public spat with his wife Sowmya (Anusha Shyam).

The hosts Vinay (Vishnu Agastya) and Divya (Niiniin Kassim), who are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary, are sucked into a game that soon ceases to be one. From relatively lightweight questions – should women change their surnames after marriage – to trickier ones – is there such a thing as absolute trust between couples – the 108-minute film shrewdly dissects the human tendency to dissemble or embellish in public view.

The sharp writing and patches of solid performances overcome the ordinary shooting style. Unlike Roman Polanski’s Carnage (2011), which largely plays out inside an apartment, the mostly indoors-set Aayirathonnu Nunakal doesn’t have a strong enough visual language to complement its often trenchant depiction of human frailties.

Among the revelations that emerge during the Truth or Dare exercise is that reticence is a necessary attribute of romantic relationships. In an age of performativeness fuelled by social media, the insights of Aayirathonnu Nunakal especially ring true.

Aayirathonnu Nunakal (2023).