SPOILER ALERT! Something that wasn’t revealed in the promos of the film will be disclosed in this review. Reader discretion is advised.
The immediate feeling I got after watching Jeo Baby’s latest film Kaathal was a sense of pride because the Malayalam movie industry came up with such a layered and rooted story about homosexuality with a superstar playing the central character. What is even more admirable about this movie, scripted by Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria, is that they manage to pull off something beyond this Mammootty attraction. With a holistic approach to storytelling, Kaathal – The Core is definitely a triumphant achievement.
Mathew Devassy is our central character, and he is married to Omana. Mathew is about to contest in local body elections, and exactly at that time, Omana files a divorce case. With the news about the case getting public attention, people started to speculate about Mathew’s sexuality, and there was pressure on Omana to opt for a compromise. How the case goes is what we see in Kaathal.
In terms of visual craft, Kaathal is pretty similar to The Great Indian Kitchen, and Jeo Baby makes sure that not a single statement in the film comes across as messaging. The ultimate aim of the movie is to educate a majority who still hesitates to accept homosexuality. But rather than making characters do revolutionary things on screen, Kaathal decided to be an onlooker who just shows us the various dimensions of the issues that evolve from the lack of acceptance. The lens of empathy this movie has towards almost every character will make us think about the whole life of each character we see on screen, and it is deeply disturbing and moving.
There is a moment in the movie where the advocate of Omana states a fact that more than 80% of homosexual people are married to straight people. When you look at the life of both parties, and the kids in those relationships, the trauma associated is unfathomable. And there is another moment in the film where Omana supports Mathew by urging him to think about life on his own terms. For me, the awareness of the writing to address the topic from all angles was the most cinematically satisfying thing in the film. How the film shows the plight of Mathew, Omana, Thankan, Devassy, etc., is so impactful. The occasionally symmetric and mostly static frames of Salu K Thomas, along with the elevating background score of Mathews Pulickan, enhanced the film’s quality. The pacing set by Francies Louis is also commendable.
Mammootty with his restrained acting style, transforms into that less expressive and confused Mathews in the first half. And how he has portrayed the extremely vulnerable moments of the character in those last moments is nothing short of remarkable. Jyotika as Omana is mostly in the sad shade in which we see her in the trailer. The pauses she takes for the dialogues in the first half are a bit of a problem, but actor Jomol, who has dubbed for the character, has managed to retain the emotion in the crucial second half. Chinnu Chandni and Muthumani Somamsundaram were really fluent as advocates. One performance that will stay with you after the movie came from Sudhi Kozhikode, who was just brilliant in portraying the pain of someone whose love never got understood by anyone. Joji John, Anagha Maya Ravi, Josey Sijo, Alister Alex, etc., are the other major cast members, along with writer Adarsh Sukumaran.
Often times when filmmakers make movies about the LGBTQI+ community, they approach it just as the struggle of those characters alone. But what is refreshing about Kaathal is how it shows the impact of not embracing that truth on different generations and different relationship equations. The film’s left inclination never comes across as a compromise as we are shown how the inner politics of the party still have people who are not clear about taking a confident stand.
What is refreshing about Kaathal is how it shows the impact of not embracing that truth on different generations and different relationship equations.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended