With all of us being confined to our homes for nearly 2 months or so, all thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak, we have seen our lives getting altered in ways that we had never anticipated and looked forward to. I have been someone who generally preferred the experience of watching movies in cinemas, not getting lured by the abundant content (films, web-series and much more) available on the numerous OTT/digital platforms that we have access to. Every few months I would ponder over trying to embrace the OTT platforms, but kept delaying the inevitable, only for this lockdown to finally bring in the transition in my case. So thus, I have been getting my daily fix of entertainment at home in the last couple of months, watching film after film, series after series. And in this process, I also watched Ranjith’s Drama (2018), a rare Mohanlal film in recent times that I had missed watching in a theatre.Continue reading “Mohanlal: From Narendran to Kunjali Marakkar IV, a Journey to be Admired”
In the simplest of terms, one can label the legendary figure of Kerala folklore, Kayamkulam Kochunni as a local Robin hood of sorts. However, given the context of social structure of that times, he is much more than that. Here is a young Muslim man who is considered a deity in one of the Hindu temple in Kerala to this day. A Muslim who learned the martial art form of Kalari at a time when it was not exactly thought to ‘outsiders’. And a man who from whatever we know of him, stood for the lower caste and oppressed while taking on the rich and the upper strata of the society. A man who was eventually betrayed by his own men for a few pieces of gold. In short, a man who has a story that has all the makings of an epic.
And yet, direct Rosshan Andrews attempt at giving this legendary figure a fitting movie adaptation proves to an underwhelming one.
Kayamkulam Kochunni narrates the tale of Kochunni (Nivin Pauly), a young chap with a heart of gold and a do-gooder. He flees from home when his father is caught for stealing and seeks to live an honest life. He takes up the job with a Tamil Brahmin as a storekeeper for his livelihood.
There is also the whole episode of him wanting to learn the art form of Kalari which makes him seek out a local teacher Thangal (Babu Anthony) who initially refuses to teach him. However, the determined man ends up learning the art by hiding on a treetop and watching the classes closely after dusk. When he is eventually sniffed out, the master is impressed at the man and his skills he has picked up.
The turn of events comes in when Kochunni stumbles upon some treasure which he duly informs the high priests of the village. However instead of being rewarded, they frame him once they get their hand on the loot and brands Kochunni as a thief and leave him out to die.
And he would have died, had it not been for the timely entry of a famed thief by the name of Ithikkara Pakki (the hyped cameo from Mohanlal). He comes in to save the central character and the film just in time. Pakki inspires a crushed Kochunni to stand again on his feet and fight back at the privileged few who cheated and framed him a criminal.
Thus, Kochunni becomes gradually Kayamkulam Kochunni, the feared thief whose name is enough to send shudders down the spine of the elite, while ensuring he does his bit for the oppressed and downtrodden.
Sure, all of it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as much of the screenplay is about creative cinematic liberties. Kochunni has already made it to the big screens once in the sixties, with Sathyan playing the role of the infamous thief. And even in recent past, the stories made its way into our living rooms in the form of a televised series. And now with a budget of supposedly 45 crore, director Rosshan Andrews takes a shot at it.
Bobby-Sanjay, the writing duo, who has been the backbone of some of Andrews’ finest works fails to really bring out the distinctive epic materials that the script required. Instead taking inspiration from a basic Amar Chitra version of the character, the screenplay also goes about ticking off some basic events of Kochunni’s life without really bothering with the whys and hows. We never really get into the emotional psyche of the man, and as a result, we are not really engaged with the central character. The screenplay basically misses all the emotional beats making us disconnected with Kochunni’s victories or setbacks.
This is only made worse with the portrayal of the character by lead man Nivin Pauly. For starters, his approach to what could have been the role of a lifetime is extremely disappointing. He never looks comfortable in the part and does not really come off well in the transformation from the boy next door to the much-dreaded thief in town. His failure to become the character, mentally or physically turns to be the biggest bane of the project.
In fact, Mohanlal, even in his fifteen minutes, puts in much more effort with mannerisms and body language to give his character of Ithikkara Pakki, the much-needed distinction. So much for a tale of a thief, when the veteran in his 20 minute appearance ends up stealing the thunder. Yes, Pakki does look like a character from belonged in another film, with the costume and the western BGM. But no one would complain about authenticity there, because his scenes were the better portions of the movie. Wish Andrews and Nivin put in as much effort to the titular character.
Priya Anand also turns out to be another case of wrong casting. She does not look the part and is seen struggling with her lines. Of the supporting cast, the ones that does shine are Sunny Wayne and Babu Anthony. Director Jude Anthony also do well in a brief sequence. The rest of the lot, including the extras and the foreign actors, all seem over the top and appear too amateurish. It has always been a recurring problem in the historical / period dramas and the same issues continue here too. There is that sense of artificialness that makes you detached from the period setting and giving you the feeling that instead you are witnessing a school play.
The movie makes room every now and then to voice the social issues of the times with a commentary on the prevalent caste structure of the times. Add to that the presence of the British. However the dialogues are poor, including one hilarious line mouthed by one of the English characters who goes “ He is your race, he is your case!” . In fact, the whole British portions have no impact on the proceedings and seem just fillers with no real implications. The item number from Nora Fatehi also comes across as an unnecessary addition.
On the positive side, one needs to applaud the makers in spending the time and effort in recreating the settings. Sunil Babu’s production design and the cinematography by Binod Pradhan and Nirav Shah are definitely the major plus factors of this expensive venture. Gopi Sundar’s music is decent but it needed more folkish touch. Which is why he ends up creating a better impact with the background score and folk songs towards the end.
All in all, the movie is an amalgamation of several wrong choices that takes away the authenticity and works against the mood and feel of the movie. Something that no technical prowess is going to change or conceal. In its safe commercial avatar, Kayamkulam Kochunni turns out as an average venture that robs the audience from having something memorable or path breaking.
Cast : Navin Pauly, Priya Anand, Sunny Wayne, Babu Anthony and Mohanlal
Directed by Rosshan Andrews
Music Gopi Sundar
The men who share a camaraderie in the apartment complex have all gathered for their daily round of drinks on the rooftop (after all the days of the regular bars in Kerala is now history) and Ulahanan (Mohanlal) is pissed off because he realized that the chapter of the lady who was enticing him over the last few days is now a closed one. Irritated and angry at the same time, he forces his neighbour and friend Venukuttan (Anoop Menon) to make him speak with one of his numerous girlfriends over phone right then. Though initially unwilling, Venukuttan does go on to dial someone on his mobile phone eventually and gives the phone to Ulahanan without revealing the name of the lady. Ulahanan goes on to speak to the person over the phone, only to realize that he has been tricked by Venukuttan, as the person on the other end is none other than his wife, Annyamma (Meena). This is just one of various wonderful moments from Jibu Jacob’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, which has finally hit the theatres after a delay due to the film industry strike in Kerala.Continue reading “Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol Movie Review: It’s never too late to Fall in Love…Again”
2016 has turned out to be a slightly low key year for Malayalam Cinema overall, with strangely a decrease in the output, both in terms of quantity and quality. Talking of the number of releases there has been a sharp decline in terms of both straight as well as dubbed releases. From 153 releases overall last year (140 straight and 13 dubbed), 2016 saw the release count drop to 122 overall (118 straight releases and 4 dubbed films). And sadly the culmination of the year has ended on a really sad note for the industry, a pity considering the kind of promising films which were lined up for release in the Christmas-New Year festive season. What started off as a tussle between the producers and distributors/exhibitors over revenue sharing and was expected to get resolved well before the Christmas weekend has extended into a huge deadlock of sorts. As a result all the major festival releases continue to wait for a release and will now in all certainty turn out to be the first few releases of 2017.Continue reading “The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2016: A Perspective”
Not too long ago many of us had given up on Mohanlal, neither was he drawing crowds to the theatres like he used to do with remarkable ease film after film, nor was he managing to please the critics. However with Drishyam he made everyone shut up, even as the film appealed to audiences far and wide and critics too were moved by what Jeethu Joseph managed to come up with through this film. But somehow his choice of films post Drishyam have not been all that convincing, even his fans have not been completely satisfied to be honest. With no release for around 8 months (post Kanal) one was left wondering what exactly is his game plan but it looks like he knew that he was always there in the hunt. With Vismayam/Manamantha he showed that he is still good with the simple family oriented subjects and with Janatha Garage he managed to wow the Telugu audience as well. And by the time you read this I’m sure everyone knows that he has now had huge back to back hits in the form of Priyadarshan’s Oppam and of course Vysakh’s Pulimurugan.Continue reading “Pulimurugan Movie Review: The Tiger Roars and Shows Who’s the Boss”
It is a little surprising and also comforting to see a new Malayalam film begin with a scene involving veteran actors like Innocent and Kaviyoor Ponnamma. The introduction to the film begins with a family gathering in the ancestral home and we get to realize that the protagonist who is visually impaired is seen to be the near perfect son of the family, ever sacrificing for his siblings. And if you are wondering if this is going to be the tone for the rest of the film, then let me assure you that there is more to the film than just this aspect. As the protagonist prepares to return back to the city, he goes on to talk to someone on the way and just for a brief moment there is a mention of Kalaripayattu. And wait, there’s more to follow, he goes on to follow that with a semi classical rendition while on the ferry ride back to the city.Continue reading “Oppam Movie Review: Priyadarshan and Mohanalal reassure us…to an Extent”
At times the human mind does play around with us quite a bit, or else how can we easily account for fantasies, fetishes and all sort of (weird?) desires that we come across or think of from time to time. There are some characters whom we encounter or hear about, who seem to revel in following a slightly convoluted path towards achieving satisfaction on various levels. Popular writer-director Ranjith‘s latest Malayalam film Leela talks about one such interesting character, Kuttiyappan. Ranjith has always been one of the few filmmakers who have managed to maintain a fine balance between art and commerce, as seen by a majority of his films. But it’s also true that he hasn’t really been in form of late, with his previous film Loham being especially disappointing. Leela also sees him play the producer, a role that he takes upon from time to time and not for all his films.Continue reading “Leela Movie Review: A Tale of an Unusual Individual”
We all like to see tales of the underdog scoring a victory, don’t we? That’s practically why David vs Goliath is one of the tales that continues to see various interpretations even today. Of course not every such tale manages to hold your attention, or even impress you in any way. That’s where the power of a story teller, narrator and filmmaker comes into play. In particular I like tales focusing on an underdog where the setting is as close to reality as possible and where one identifies with the tale by itself or the characters or perhaps both. Fahadh Faasil is someone who has time and again proved his worth as an actor, pulling off diverse roles in various films with ease. He is easily one of the most versatile of the actors in India these days, especially among those playing the leading men. Cast him as a suave urbane character, or a simple down to earth man and he still sinks into the character easily.Continue reading “Maheshinte Prathikaaram Movie Review: Simple yet Cheeky Slice of Life Tale”
At the very outset while I do feel that 2015 wasn’t an exceptional year for Malayalam Cinema, there were some interesting films and certain interesting trends were noticed as well. The number of releases overall dipped a bit this year, with an overall number of 153 releases (140 straight and 13 dubbed releases) compared to 163 last year. There were disruptions to the movie business seen in the form of the exhibitors association shutting down the theatres in Kerala on 2 separate occasions. While in July we saw a strike (thankfully only for a day) due to protest over the piracy controversy surrounding Alphonse Putharen’s Premam, we saw the the Christmas releases being threatened thanks to the strike over the Government’s decision to introduce a Rs. 3 cess on tickets intended to be used for helping poor artists of the industry with a monthly pension. There were quite a few films which saw success at the box office, including 3 bonafide blockbusters, all of them bringing in a fresh aspect of filmmaking.Continue reading “The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2015: A Perspective”