Malayalam film industry is slowly getting back on its feet after being derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. With movies like ‘Kurup’, ‘Jaan E Man’ and ‘Ellam Sheriyavum’ drawing audience back into theatres, and with movies like ‘Churuli’ released on SonyLIV being widely discussed for its unconventional filmmaking and storyline, Malayalam cinema is certainly diversifying with emphasis on experimentation and new narratives.
However, movies with superstars and mass elements continue to generate hype, especially in their fan circles. Since filmmaker Nithin Renji Panicker announced ‘Kaaval’ with actor-politician Suresh Gopi in the lead role, the actor’s fans were all set to celebrate another mass movie on screen. Known once as the angry young man of Malayalam cinema, Suresh Gopi cemented his place in the industry through his action hero roles, especially the feisty cop roles. The return of Suresh Gopi in another powerful, action-oriented role after many years was the highlight of ‘Kaaval’. But, did ‘Kaaval’ meet all the hype and expectations? We will surely know in a few days.
Kaaval is set in the backdrop of Idukki, a high range district in Kerala. The movie tells the story of two friends, Antony (Renji Panicker) and Thampan (Suresh Gopi) who were once the saviour of peasants and downtrodden people. Antony and Thampan acted like a parallel justice system in the region as they listen and solve the grievances raised by hapless farmers tortured and exploited by landlords, police and even maoists.
The film starts with the present condition of Antony and his family consisting of a son and a daughter who are frequently humiliated by a money lender and his goons. Antony, who lost one of his legs, is now just a shadow of his past and doesn’t have any strength left to save his children from the money lender and his goons. Without anyone for help, Antony decides to seek help from his long-estranged friend Thampan. But, Antony gets killed in a road accident on the way to meet Thampan. His son instead meets Thampan and requests him to help. Thampan initially hesitates to go back to the place he once left, but eventually does so in order to protect his friend’s children.
The movie then goes into the typical track of following Thampan who manages the money lender, bad cops and the goons. Kaaval’s storyline is predictable to the core that even the apparent climax twist doesn’t come as a surprise. The movie also overtly depends on the background score to accentuate the cinematic elements.
If Nithin Renji Panicker’s first movie ‘Kasaba’ starring Mammootty got all the unwanted attention for reviving a dangerous trend of glorifying derogatory comments against women, his second movie ‘Kaaval’ has at least shied away from such a trend, though such filthy dialogues, this time, were uttered by villains and not by the hero himself. If this change can be seen as a progress, all the other elements in this Suresh Gopi starrer reminds one of an outdated style of scripting and direction from which Malayalam cinema has moved forward.
Nithin, son of director and actor Renji Panicker, still seems to be stuck in the bygone era of Malayalam movies of the 2000’s – a period when the machismo and mass dialogues of the hero were the only sources of entertainment. Malayalam cinema has certainly come a long way from such hero centric mass masala movies and has dared to sail in new waters, with prominence given to scripts with human elements and relatable characters.
However, one can’t question the right of a filmmaker’s choices or their intentions behind making a movie. So even if you decide to watch Kaaval hoping to enjoy a mass entertainer, chances are that you might get disappointed even then. Simply because the script lacks conviction and the characters are half baked. The film is devoid of memorable cinematic moments and follows an outdated style of narration. Last but not the least, there is an absence of a strong villain. If something can save this movie, it is the impactful screen presence of Suresh Gopi.
Suresh Gopi’s transformation as a caring father later in the movie gifts the audience some heartwarming moments. Renji Panicker, who is usually very convincing with the characters he plays, looked a bit animated when he played the older Antony. Late actor Rajan P Dev’s son Kannan Rajan did justice to the role of a heartless money lender.