KAPPELA movie review: Couple Trouble!

Malayalam , 2020

Cast:     Anna Ben, Roshan Mathews, Sreentha Bhasi, Sudhi Koppa,

Music    Sushin Shyam

Written and directed by Muhammed Musthafa

 streaming on NETFLIX

 

Continuing the golden run in recent years, Malayalam movie industry dived into 2020 with a bang!  Right up in January the thriller Anjaam Pathira took the box-office by storm, and the next month saw the arrival of the widely appreciated Ayyapanum Koshiyum. And in the month of March, a small little film titled Kappela quietly came to the big screens and instantly impressed audiences. It was unfortunate though that the movie did not get its due cause of the immediate lockdown measures put in place.

Kappela (meaning Chapel) is a neatly packaged movie from actor Muhammed Musthafa who is making his directorial debut with this venture. Musthafa, who over a decade has become a familiar face in Malayalam movies shows that he has some tricks up his sleeve when it comes to writing as well. Because his sharp and creative screenplay is what works for this, otherwise simple looking film.

Much of the credit goes to the smart casting and leading from the front is Anna Ben. This actress after the highly impressive roles in Kumbalangi Nights and Helen, once again charms literally carrying the entire movie on her petite shoulders.  In Kappela, she plays Jessy, a a simple naive girl from an orthodox Christian, residing in a high range village in Wayanad, Kerala. Having flunked her exams, she really haven’t any high ambitions set for herself in life, and goes about her routine life, with rather modest desires. Like something as simple as a visit to a beach.

Jessy’s life gets interesting when she ends up dialing a wrong number one day. The voice at the other end belongs to a Vishnu (Roshan Mathews), an autorickshaw driver.  Soon it leads to more calls between the two, and before you know it, a romantic relationship brews between the duo over these regular phone calls.

The two decide eventually to meet each other in the city of Kozhikode. But what should have been a simple rendezvous gets complicated when in walks a third character, Roy (Sreenath Bhasi) into the equation and the lives of this couple will never remain the same.

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Telling anything more would be spoilers because the strength is in the screenplay taking you places which you do not expect it to and Musthafa the writer makes the job easy for the director in him. He shows how an ordinary tale can be spun to effective results, without going all flashy or in-your-face. It also holds back from being preachy or taking any moralistic high stand when it comes to dealing with its characters and situations. For a minute, you would even think this is going the way of last year’s Shane Nigam starrer Ishq and we are going to get yet another round of the clash of male egos.

 

Sreenath Bhasi and Roshan Mathews does a good job in their respective roles, going at each other’s throats. Having to walk on this fine thin line of characterization, the two pulls it off with aplomb. But as mentioned the real heart and soul is Anna Ben and she emerges extremely confident in her craft, adding this one too as yet another feather to her short but impressive filmography. She gives the needed relatability to the character of Jessy, grounding her in earnestness. Able support also comes from the rest of the cast that includes Sudhi Koppa, James Elia, Nisha Sarang and Tanvi Ram.

Sushin Shyam’s delightfully wonderful score and Jimshi Khalid’s captivating frames enhances the movie, enriching the experience, supporting Mustafa’s vision.

With a refreshing take that toys with one’s perspectives, Kapella is another small yet impressive work that once again shows that the Malayalam industry is indeed in promising hands. And this gives us a prime example, how boundaries of storytelling are constantly being pushed despite all the seeming limitations.

 

– Joxily John

 

Anjaam Pathiraa (2020) Malayalam Movie Review: The Hunter and the Hunted

The latest Malayalam thriller to stream on our home screens is Anjaam Pathiraa (the fifth midnight).  Kochi the metro city of Kerala is shocked by a cold blooded murder of a cop. An investigation team is formed, with Anwar (Kunchacko Boban) who is a psychologist helping the team.  Soon the cops realise that they are looking at a serial killer who is out to murder the cops.Continue reading “Anjaam Pathiraa (2020) Malayalam Movie Review: The Hunter and the Hunted”

Kumbalangi Nights Movie Review: Man in the Mirror!

An unfinished house. That is the image we get as the movie begins and that image is enough to put across to the viewers the stories of the pain and struggle of the people within.

In this case it is the house of the late Napolean’s four sons, situated in a small village in Ernakulam.  We are first introduced to the youngest of the lot, Frankie (Mathew Thomas) who makes it clear about how ashamed he feels about his house that he has to lie in order to keep his classmates from visiting his place. In his words, ‘the worst house of the entire Panchayat!’

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The oldest of this rather dysfunctional household is Saji (Soubin Shahir) who is content freewheeling on the hard earned money of a Tamilian he once had helped. Then you have the mute one,  Bonny (Srinath Bhasi),  who stays away from the squabbles of the house and would rather spend the time with his close bunch of friends. And the last of the lot is Bobby, played by Shane Nigam, who is a total loafer who cannot put the effort into anything. He runs away from anything that is described as a ‘job’. Even when asked if he is into drugs, his reply is ‘those things make you think. We cannot do all hat. We are free-birds’.

Simultaneously, we also get a peek into yet another household- that of Baby (Anna Ben) who works as a tourist guide at one of the nearby resorts. Her sister (Grace) has just married and we are introduced to her husband- Shammi (a brilliant Fahadh Fasil) who in his introductory shot itself looks to the mirror, setting his bold black moustache and announcing to himself, ‘Raymond- the complete man!’.

Though we do not get to know much of his past, we can sense the misogynistic and conservative upbringing of his. Even before he is introduced, there is his brother who gets visibly offended on being offered a lift on a bike, rode by a woman. With his father in law having passed away, Shammi believes he has a firm role to play as the ‘man of the house’. Truth be told, he believes he is the rightful hero of his tale. ‘Shammi, hero aada, hero’ utters Fahadh in one of the best lines from the film.

And in most cases, he would have been. But this time, Shammi is not the hero.

For the heroes of the stories are the women that walk into the lives of these men. They find a good human being even in the most laggard of these men. They see the beauty even in the most incomplete and unkempt of places. They bring hope to even those who seemingly have lost all of it. They also bring forth courage at situations where it really is called for. They turn out to be the true knights of this Kumbalangi village.

Hats off once again to Shyam Pushkaran. The writer has been giving us gems after another and here is yet another spectacular example of what magic even simplistic of writings can create on celluloid. Placing realistic characters in equally relatable settings, dipped with the local milieu turns to a feast for the viewers. And they are not the perfectly white and black characters that we used to. The characters are as flawed as you and me.

Even the villain of this enterprise, Shammi is not entirely wrong. He has a point when he questions the qualifications that the wayward Bobby possess to marry his sister in law. He is on point when he states that the chap cannot even afford to pay for his own shave at the barbershop. In another movie, he very well might have been the hero. Here we are asked to laugh at the moustache twirling man, rooted in misogyny and patriarchal conservatism.

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Director Madhu C Narayanan could not have asked for a better debut. Every scene and every character come alive, even the short scene that the sons share with the mother. Joining hand in hand with the writer and the cinematographer Shyju Khalid, they bring such warmth and feel good factor to the proceedings. Commendable is how none of this ever seem forced into the narrative but flows in with a natural ease.

Speaking of flowing in, the same can be said about the songs in the movie. Sushin Shyam’s music blends in well with the setting and never feels out of place. Even when an English track forms part of the it. The theme music is something that will stick to you head much after the movie.

And the performances. How captivating are they?  Shane Nigam is turning into a remarkable lead man who certainly have the charms and the acting chops. Sreenath Bhasi plays with limitations but makes his presence felt. Debutant Anna Ben was dazzling from the word go and looked exceptionally confident and impressive for a newcomer. Other performers like  Mathew, Jasmine Metevier and Grace Antony also makes their presence felt. Even the actors who play Bobby and Baby’s friends make a lasting impression. Dileesh Pothan , also one of the producers of the movie, chips in a cameo appearance.

Fahadh Fasil has repeatedly been challenging himself and he seem to not surprise himself and the audience with his choice of roles and how he aces them. This time, as a villain, he absolutely steals the frames whenever he appears with his eccentric mannerisms, and at times, even with merely his looks. One runs out of adjectives with each passing performance of his.

And last but not the least, Soubin Shahir. From a comedian, he made leaps as a lead man in last year’s runaway success story Sudani From Nigeria.  But with this one, he has shown us what a amazing actor he is. He owned the role of Saji completely. Be it when he laughs in joy on Bobby calling him ‘chetta (Brother), or when in his drunk scene with Ramesh Thilak and eventual reaction to the bitter truth, or the scene where he breaks down in front of the doctor. Such a damn fine performance capturing all the complexities of the character.

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This year is merely a month and a few days old, and we already have a gem of a film that would feature in the year end top lists (…that is if not the best). Rarely do we have movies approached with such simplicity, sincerity and comes out with such beautiful results. But films from Kerala are managing to hit that sweet spot with ease and finesse. The Napolean brothers will find a place a heart in all moviegoers. And so will Fahadh’s Shammi , one that will be etched in our memories for years to come.

So think no further, do check out this house in the wastelands of Kumbalangi. One where exists no boundaries of caste, color, religion or nation. It shows that even the most incomplete of homes can feel complete when it is drenched in love, acceptance and brotherhood. An absolute must-watch!

Rating:  4

 

KUMBALANGA NIGHTS (Malayalam, 2019)

cast:  Soubin Shahir, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi, Anna Ben, Mathew Thomas, Grace Antony and Fahadh Faasil

Directed by Madhu C Narayanan

Written by Shyam Pushkaran

Produced by Fahadh Fasil and Friends/ Working Class Hero

Jacobinte Swargarajyam Movie Review: The Family That Fights All Odds Together, Stays Together

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”

Rani Padmini: Trailer

Rani Padmini PosterAashiq Abu who has been having a mixed run of late,came up with the disastrous Gangster last year. He is now back with his latest film,Rani Padmini which is produced by PM Harris and VS Muhammed Althaf and written by Syam Pushkaran and Ravi Sankar. The film features Manju Warrier and Rima Kallingal in the lead, along with Sajitha Madathil, Jinu Joseph, Sreenath Bhasi, Soubin Shahir, Dileesh Pothan, Binu Pappu, Rajitha Madhu, Hareesh Khanna. The music is by Bijibal while Madhu Neelakandan is the DOP and Saiju Sreedharan is the editor.Continue reading “Rani Padmini: Trailer”

KL 10 Patthu: Trailer

KL 10 Patthu PosterMuhsin Parari makes his debut as writer-director with the Malayalam movie KL 10 Patthu. Produced by Alexander Mathew & Satheesh Kolam, KL10 Patthu is a North Malabar based film with football as the background.Featuring Unni Mukundan in the lead,the film also features Chandini Sreedharan, Mamukoya, Sreenath Bhasi, Neeraj Madhav etc. Music is by Bijibal while Vishnu Narayanan is the DOP and Manoj is the editor.Continue reading “KL 10 Patthu: Trailer”

Honey Bee: Trailer

Honey Bee PicJean Paul Lal aka Lal Jr, the son of actor-director-producer Lal is now all set to join the new age Malayalam filmmakers club with his debut film,Honey Bee. Produced by Sibi Thottupuram and Jobi Mandamattom, Honey Bee is written by Lal Jr and features Asif Ali, Bhavana, Archana Kavi,Lal, Sreenath Bhasi, Suresh Krishna etc. Music is by Deepak Dev while Alby is the DOP and Ratheesh Raj is the editor.Continue reading “Honey Bee: Trailer”

Da Thadiya: Sneak Peek

Aashiq Abu shot to fame with his second film-Salt N’Pepper which was one of the most popular Malayalam films of 2011 and also well acclaimed. He followed it this year with 22 Female Kottayam, his own tribute to films like Kill Bill and Ek Hasina Thi, which was a fair attempt and carried a lot of buzz online as well. Continue reading “Da Thadiya: Sneak Peek”