Sibi Malayil is a filmmaker who has made masterpieces whenever he has opted for character-oriented dramas. His combination with Lohithadas was always cinematically compelling as they portrayed their heroes as vulnerable human beings. This character-oriented approach has been missing in Sibi Malayil’s films in the last decade or so. I am not saying his new movie Kotthu, written by Hemanth Kumar, is a complete winner. But the silver lining of this project is perhaps the fact that the script offered Sibi Malayil a chance to enter his comfort zone of showing uncomfortable humans.
The movie is set against the backdrop of Kannur and its bloodshed-driven political history. Shanu and Sumesh are part of the left-wing party, and Sadanandan is their local leader. The movie focuses on a political murder in which Shanu and Sumesh get involved. The way it gets out of the hands of the party and how the trauma around it changes the way Shanu looks at politics and life is what we see in Kotthu.
A significant chunk of the first half is used for establishing the world and its characters. And I must say that there is this exhilarating energy in the first hour of Kotthu. Once we realize the conflict point, the movie becomes easily predictable. This predictability wasn’t a major issue when the treatment was character-oriented. But towards the end, the film looks for a very unrealistic closure to the scenario, and the tone becomes very apolitical. Even when you root for Shanu as he is going through a clueless emotional phase, this semi-preachy conclusion reduces the movie’s sharpness until that point.
The one thing that was common and impressive in this film was the way how actors grasped the slang. Asif Ali as Shanu gets the meatier part in the last quarter of the movie, and Sibi Malayil gives him a space to pull off a Sethumadhavan in that area. As Sumesh, Roshan Mathew also plays it cool. My favorite portion of Roshan was the police station sequence before the arrival of Sudev Nair. Nikhila Vimal makes the character extremely real with her dialogue delivery. And towards the end of the movie, she breaks away from her character’s “sweet and fun” image. Ranjith, who is usually very stiff, managed to loosen up a bit and was very convincing as the leader Sadanandan. Sreelakshmi, as Ammini, also did a good job. Vijilesh and Atul Ramkumar also played their part neatly. A special mention has to be given to the little girl Swathi, who played the role of the daughter of the character Kanakan. The impact she created in a crucial scene towards the end was massive.
In certain areas, Kotthu will remind you of the classics of Sibi Malayil as we see the dilemma and guilt of the central character. The close-up shots are clearly on the higher side, and the frames have this tightness that somehow conveys the suffocation of the characters. Hemanth Kumar’s writing, especially in the first half, is really impressive. The connections between the police and the party workers, the way they plan the revenge, the exit strategies, the wound patterns, etc., are all planted in the screenplay seamlessly. The central character’s actions towards the end feel more like a deliberate move of the script to reach the climax they had designed. The inclination of the climax to be very neutral feels more like a gallery-pleasing, safe play, which diminishes the movie’s scope to be moving.
In terms of world-building and setting character dilemmas, Kotthu looks very impressive. The decision to make the story an idea with a solution or proper closure takes away the opportunity to create a lingering pain. With several memorable performances and a setting that is familiar to most Keralites, Kotthu is a watchable political drama with its share of weaknesses.
With several memorable performances and a setting that is familiar to most Keralites, Kotthu is a watchable political drama with its share of weaknesses.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended