Kayamkulam Kochunni Movie Review: Prince of Thieves!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Classic “Kayamkulam Kochunni” to return on Screen

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.

 

The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2014: A Perspective

While doing a similar exercise around the same time last year I found it hard to do the analysis of the year that’s coming to an end in terms of Malayalam Cinema’s output. This was especially true while compiling my list of the best 10 films of the year, but this time around the process has been a lot simpler. In a way it is a little alarming as that means the quality of films has dipped a bit as there haven’t been too many films to short list and fight among themselves for a spot in the compilation. While the year began on a cautious note thanks to the satellite T.V. deals not happening like before, resulting in many films from late 2013 waiting in the cans finally releasing one, by one, eventually the year still saw 163 releases (apparently 150 straight releases and 13 dubbed releases). The year saw a few films doing very well commercially, not all of them featuring big stars. Also as usual a few good films were given the miss by the audience despite the good reviews.Continue reading “The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2014: A Perspective”

How Old Are You Movie Review: Return of a Diva

How Old Are You- Manju WarrierManju Warrier is back and how! Rosshan Andrrews’ How Old Are You brings back Manju to the silver screen after a decade and half and one of Malayalam cinema’s most-loved actresses makes a spirited return as a middle-aged woman restoring her identity and finding new direction in life. This easily is one of the more anticipated movies this year and to that extent, there is a sense of mild nostalgia, coupled with a sense of satisfaction that her re-launch vehicle is the perfect one for the occasion.

(Mild Spoilers Ahead)

How Old Are You (HOAY), follows the ‘boring’ middle-class life of Nirupama Rajeev (Manju Warrier), a 36-year old UD clerk in the revenue department. Her life comprises a run-of-the-mill government job which she has been doing for the past 15 years, her family and colleagues, after she settles down and adjusts herself to the reality of a post-marital life. Her husband Rajeev (Kunchacko Boban) who works with All India Radio, and her high school daughter Lakshmi (Amritha Anil), have big dreams in life and want to migrate to Ireland to carve a new life for them.Continue reading “How Old Are You Movie Review: Return of a Diva”

How Old Are You: Trailer

How Old Are You-Manju WarrierIn the 1990’s Manju Warrier was not just one of the most sought after heroines in Malayalam Cinema,she was a rare example of an actress who appealed to almost all sections of the industry and movie audience.With her settling down to a life of domesticated bliss after her marriage to popular actor Dileep, she had quit acting and even dancing (she’s a trained classical dancer). But while she has been making a lot of heads turn with developments in her personal life,her fans and well wishers have been eagerly awaiting her comeback to films. So now the wait is over as her comeback film, How Old Are You directed by Rosshan Andrrews is ready for release. Written by Bobby-Sanjay, the film is produced by Listin Stephen and has music by Gopi Sunder.Continue reading “How Old Are You: Trailer”

The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2013: A Perspective

Ramzan Malayalam ReleasesCompared to 2012 which was a landmark year of sorts for Malayalam Cinema 2013 was a little uneven year of sorts. But 2013 is a unique year for Malayalam Cinema where in terms of quantity of output Malayalam saw the maximum number of straight releases as compared to any other Indian language (apparently 158 straight releases and 12 dubbed releases with Tamil being a close second with 149 straight releases).  In terms of films which were clear trendsetters maybe the number of exceptional films weren’t too many, but keeping in mind that 2013 wasn’t an exceptionally special year for Indian Cinema per se, the output of Malayalam Cinema was still quite impressive. Sure the industry had its fair share of disappointments but then they do not outweigh the things which worked positively. Before I go on to talk about the films which made a difference in the year, let’s first look at some of the significant developments and aspects that were observed over the year.Continue reading “The Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2013: A Perspective”

Mumbai Police Movie Review: A Cop Thriller That Breaks the Stereotype

Mumbai Police movie poster
Mumbai Police movie poster

A crime is committed; you have identified the culprit and are about to reveal the mystery and then boom! There’s an accident and everything is wiped out of your memory and you have to start on a fresh slate, with your RAM totally clean and no one else aware of your condition, except for a couple of people. Continue reading “Mumbai Police Movie Review: A Cop Thriller That Breaks the Stereotype”

Mumbai Police: Trailer

Rosshan Andrrews who otherwise has had a reasonably good track record as a filmmaker in Malayalam Cinema shocked the industry last year with Casanovva,a film that even die hard fans of Mohanlal found it hard to digest. Now Rosshan is back with Mumbai Police, a film which was started way back in 2010 and delayed due to constant change of star cast. Continue reading “Mumbai Police: Trailer”