Kumbalangi Nights — Heart in the Right Place

This movie is a stand-in for everything Malayalam cinema is good at. It does not have astronomical budgets, breakthrough marketing or special computer graphics. But the good news is, it does not need any of that. What Madhu C Narayanan and team have achieved is a way of tugging at your heartstrings with relatable next door characters and beautiful cinematography.

Premise

The Story

The plot has also driven clear of a stereotype, the stories that focus in Kochi so far end up going into drug filled corridors and mobster filled slums. Instead, our story movies to a fishing village called Kumbalangi inhabited mostly by fishermen, tourist operators and jobless youth. On the question of drugs, one of our main characters even retorts that those are for people who think, we are 100% chill. Our main characters are jobless, mostly hopeless until a girl comes into their lives. The movie also makes it clear that the characters are not jobless because there are no jobs, it’s because they find the available ones/ones they are good at beneath them. They find remaining jobless better than a small job and blame the society for killing their dreams.

There are lots of dialogues in this film and but none of those are generic ones that would hear in a theatre. It just seems like your neighbor, a friend, a barber or a girl next door. This is why even when the jokes fall flat, you don’t mind. Because it is still something that you would hear in real life. The characters reference other movies constantly from other dialogues and this only adds to the sense that they live among us.

The villain of this story deserves special mention. He is no superhuman, he does not kill on command, he does not carry special weapons, we do not see him hurting anyone till a point of transformation in the script. Yet, it did seem like everything was leading up to that. The movie has conveyed so much about the character through subtle nuances, background score, and dialogue. For a predictable story, this brilliance in the plot brings in the much-needed suspense. We are terrified, on the edge of the seats fearing for our main characters as all their lives are at stake.

The Characters

The villain character played by Fahadh Faasil is scary, creepy and unpredictable. Even though he does not hurt a soul till the climax of the movie, his subtle nuances and nods make him feel scary far better than any horror film. The fact that he sees himself as a hero in the story and/or cares for no other person gets the creepiest undertone. He is also a reflection of moral policing in society, where he spies on a couple in their private room but on the verge of getting caught, he suddenly turns the good guy and tries to bounce them out of the apartment for having sex. Instead of admitting his mistake, he brings out the rule book contriving the rules to his favor. He is responsible for quite a few awkward moments in the movie and his mannerisms ensure that the audience feels it too. We get to see how Fahadh rises to power in his wifes' house (if you call that rise to power), though scenes like a dialogue with Baby claiming responsibility or moving the chair to the prime position during a family dinner.

All the woman characters in the movie are a gem. You see a character Simi, who is portrayed as a patriarchial woman afraid of her husband. But when she sees hints of abuse in the family, she breaks loose and decides to act against it at all cost. The heroine, Baby played by Anna Ben is an independent strong woman who works as a tour guide, speaks the language fluently and manages a homestay for foreigners. She has strong views about love and breaks the Malayalam movie stereotype of Thepp quite easily. Even when the hero hints at breakup or possibilities end one by one, she is unmoving from her position and suggests a solution for every problem. Her chemistry with Shane Nigam is impeccable and plays out the character with the right balance of tenderness and boldness. We need more of these fleshed out women characters.

Cinematography and Soundtrack

There is a wide range of English songs to slow Malayalam melodies in this movie and none break the illusion. Bobby carries around a headset/speaker wherever he goes, and this blurts out the most random English songs at moments. He uses it as a support mechanism. Add in some tips and effects from Guardians of the Galaxy and we have a good concept. The soundtracks for each of Fahadh’s set pieces is feeble but creepy. The mood ramps up by the end raising the tempo step by step and we suddenly feel the heat.

Trailer

What it could have been

All in all, Kumbalangi Nights is a small, beautiful movie that will surely end up tugging at your hearts strings. Must Watch!!

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