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
India is a country that is very rich with the folk stories of local heroes. Every region has their own choice of folk stories and heroes. Director Rosshan Andrrews who had become a house hold name after the sensational hit “36 Vayathiniley ” is all set to narrate the story of ” Kayamkulam Kochunni’ in screen format.
“Nivin Pauly, the most happening hero of the Malayalam film industry is paired opposite Amala Paul and they come together for “Kayamkulam Kochunni” a Magnus opus film produced in a very grand scale. Kayamkulam kochunni, who’s life story has always been a centre of attraction in Kerela’s history will steal hearts across linguistic borders” says sources from the production. Titled ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’ , this big budgeted project is to be produced by Mr.Gokulam Gopalan for ‘Sri Gokulam movies’, who delivered the magnumopus ‘Pazhasiraja’ and Kamal Hassan starrer ‘Thoongavanam .Writers duo Bobby-Sanjay have done an extensive research for the script .The shooting of this mega budget project will start from September first week. The movie is also expected to be dubbed in all other South Indian languages.
Ace cinematographer Jomon T John is gearing up to don the director’s hat! Jomon is all set to direct an epic film titled “Kairali” that will have South India’s young superstar Nivin Pauly in the lead. Continue reading “Ace Cinematographer Jomon T John to turn director with “Kairali” featuring Nivin Pauly in the lead”
Dhyan Sreenivasan, son of legendary Malayalam actor/director Sreenivasan and brother of Director Vineeth Sreenivasan is all set to make his directorial debut with the jaw dropping pairing of Nivin pauly and Nayantara in the lead. The movie is titled ‘Love, Action, Drama ‘. This is said to be the modern/contemporary version of his father Sreenivasan’s super hit ‘Vadakkunokkiyanthram’ and it’s cult character ‘Dinesan’ which is still so popular, talked about and celebrated by Malayalam audience.
Dhyan Sreenivasan said, “What more can I ask for than getting an opportunity to direct the modern version of Vadakkunokkiyanthram , the ‘Dinesan’ character, with Nivin and Nayanthara playing the lead in my directorial debut. This movie will only have Vadakkunokkiyanthram’s structure and essence and nothing more. The presentation will be fresh and new. Nivin and Nayantara are going to be a huge boost to this script. This is a rom-com with the necessary emotions. Aju Varghese is playing an important character in the movie. The shooting will start in the month of October. The music is to be done by Shaan Rahman and Vivek Harshan will take care of editing. Even though this is my debut venture I feel no pressure as I have known and worked with all the artist and technicians of this movie before except Nayantara. So the comfort levels are very high “.
As it happens during the left rule in Kerala, we see a lot of films which glorifies communism. After Oru Mexican Aparatha, it is Sakhavu which has hit the screens. Sakhavu has been in the making for around a year, which is rare for a Malayalam film. Communism and the left brigade has been attracting a lot of flak and unwanted criticism, especially in India.It is interesting to see a movie which introspects the need for the idea of Communism in India.Continue reading “Sakhavu Movie Review: Directionless Communist Propaganda Film”
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”
I have been hearing positive response from those who have seen Action Hero Biju, finally I watched it this weekend. I must say that I quite enjoyed it, but somehow I was left wondering why some aspects of the film were not discussed by the reviewers or people who have seen it.
For starters, there is a scene which involves an auto rickshaw driver who is a paramour of a housewife. The scene starts with Biju (Nivin Pauly) asking about the affair, and the camera zooms in to the lady in question and we see a middle aged fat lady with dark complexion. Biju shows contempt and mocks him for falling in love with her, it is as if Biju does not believe middle age woman should not fall in love with people or do not have any emotions.Continue reading “Action Hero Biju: Stereotypes and Prejudice”
Let’s admit it, we have all faced adversities in some form or the other, or at least have known people who have faced it. We have also perhaps managed to overcome the same or know people who have been successful in fighting their way back. This is perhaps why we love to watch, or listen to tales of people, who face their crisis head on and emerge a winner. If conveyed in the right manner, there is definitely no way that the tale would not find acceptance. Somewhere down the line we perhaps even look for some inspiration in all these tales, whether we admit it or not. At the very outset there is nothing new that you find in Vineeth Sreenivasan’s latest film as director, JacobinteSwargarajyam. So a family that is prosperous, enterprising and level headed, faces an unexpected calamity, putting a big question mark over their very existence. What’s the crisis that the family faces, how do they handle it and whether they manage to conquer it being the story, now this is something that gives one a sense of déjà vu right?Continue reading “Jacobinte Swargarajyam Movie Review: The Family That Fights All Odds Together, Stays Together”