The hurdle in front of any filmmaker who wants to create a sports drama is that he or she has to surprise or indulge an audience who knows the movie’s structure. An underdog team coming up as victorious is possibly the story of almost every other sports drama. But when craft in making and smartness in writing blends perfectly, you get gems like a Lagaan, Chak De India, Iqbal, etc. The new Malayalam movie Kho-Kho, written and directed by Rahul Riji Nair, is one sports drama that doesn’t want to tweak the template. And what made the film even more unbearable for me was the dialogues that just want to be motivational quotes on Instagram. With an extremely predictable story getting written in a very unsubtle way, Kho-Kho struggles to engage the viewer.
Maria Francis, a former athlete, has now joined a government school as a physical education teacher. Her initial priority was just the salary as she wanted to support her family financially. But soon, she understood the potential of the students in the school and decided to form a Kho-Kho team. Maria’s efforts to develop the team and the rough journey of that underdog team to victory is what we see in Kho-Kho.
Kho-Kho was one of those movies where I wished none of the characters spoke. It’s just that the dialogues are theatrical and rigid. And even the rendering of those dialogues felt very artificial. Rajisha Vijayan is easily one of the finest actors in the industry, and even she was struggling to pitch those dialogues naturally. I somewhere felt if they could have rewritten the whole movie’s dialogues in a more improvised way, the audience might have ignored the template nature of the story. Some of the characters in the film are highly eccentric. And one particular element in the movie (something related to Maria’s father) that they have used to create a conflict in the story feels very fragile.
Rahul Riji Nair has written and directed this movie. As a maker, he is following the existing pattern. We have a coach who wants to achieve something through an underdog team. The team doesn’t really have that intent, and the coach has to really push them to make them believe in themselves. At one point, there is a rift happening between the players and the coach. But ultimately, despite all the odds, the team wins. I am pretty sure for anyone who has seen a sports drama in life, the above summary won’t feel like a spoiler. What is causing the problem for Kho Kho is not really the scale or the authenticity. It is its inability to add something fresh into the tale. When Maria Francis’ special shoe is shown to us for the second time, we will guess where we will see it next time. And the woman empowering theme in the film is not really an undercurrent. It’s largely on your face.
Like I already said, Rajisha Vijayan is struggling to say the dialogues naturally. It’s almost like the director wants her to say the lines exactly how it has been written. In terms of body language and expression variations, Rajisha is in control of the character. The dialogue rendering issue is there with everyone. Vettukili Prakash, as Maria’s father, is also finding it difficult to say those lines with grace. Renjit Shekhar as the peon Shiva felt a bit gimmicky. Mamitha Baiju, as Anju, plays a pivotal character in the movie, and in terms of emoting the feelings, she was really in the zone. Much like every other actor, she also failed in handling the textbook dialogues. Venkitesh is slowly becoming the poster boy of the toxic boyfriend/partner character, and I hope he will get something different soon.
In the climax of the film, there is an instance where the girls are clueless, and they try to recall their coach’s advice. The issue is that the advice was cringe-worthy when it was said in the first place. But when you have to hear it again and believe that those cheesy lines motivated these girls, it becomes much more disappointing. Kho-Kho somewhere gives you an idea of how passable ideas on paper can become cringe-fest just because of poorly written dialogues.
Kho-Kho somewhere gives you an idea of how passable ideas on paper can become cringe-fest just because of poorly written dialogues.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended