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Review: Kathavaseshan

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At 7:30 am, Gopinath Menon (Dileep) is seen alone, smoking a cigarette in his house. At 8:30 am he is still smoking. A while later, he is found hanging. Why would a guy who was seen drunk and partying in his house the previous day commit suicide without any reason? The search for the motive by his fiancée Renuka (Jyothirmayi) forms the story of this movie.

Renuka meets Menon’s family, friends, colleagues and people who knew him in the passing and tries to make sense of his life. He was a civil engineer who lived with his mother and elder sister. His job took him to various places like Gujarat, Calcutta and Trivandrum and along the way he be-friended many people from various parts of the country. There was one unique thing about Gopinatha Menon – he could not tolerate any harm being done to female children.

To stress this point, an incident is shown when Menon was staying with other colleagues in Gujarat. Their neighbor had a daughter who was friends with them. One day while coming back from office, Menon sees a colleague, kind of fighting with this girl. He assumes that this colleague (Pandyarajan) is about to molest the girl and beats him up. Later he comes to know that it was a false assumption.

In another incident in Bengal, Menon finds an girl walking alone on the road and brings her home. It seems she had lost her way. He and his friend talk to her and find the approximate location of the house and go to drop her back. The parents and neighbors who have been looking for the girl think that Menon and his friend had abducted her and beat them up.

With few incidents like these, one would think that the director has conveyed his point. No, he still drums it in with more and more incidents. In one case, the night before he committed suicide, he is seen stopping his car in the middle of the road and helping another girl child from being abducted. Previously he was also seen transporting the dead body of his friend’s daughter to her funeral when no one was willing to help.

All these incidents are reconstructed from the memories of the people involved. As soon as this repetitive saving of the girl child starts getting clichéd, the director goes on to prove that Gopinatha Menon was a person who was more interested in the welfare of other much above his own happiness. When his girl friend (Nithya Das) decided to marry someone else, he lets her go, but after sleeping with her in a hotel room.

This helping others business becomes ridiculous when Menon encounters a thief (Indrans) who has problems with police. Menon does not think for a moment and goes and shouts at the inspector (Cochin Haneefa) for stealing from a thief. He does not advice the thief to give up his illegal activities, but instead the director justifies the thief’s career through a song.

Finally after a long winding story, we finally learn about the reason behind his death. It seems he saw a report in the newspaper which said that the girl who was his neighbor in Gujarat was raped and killed. Stuck by grief, he committed suicide after writing the following lines on the wall, “For the shame of being alive”.

We could not believe that this movie was made by the same director who made Padom Onnu: Ou Vilapam. Padom Onnu had a single focus and the story and screenplay maintained that focus all through out. In that movie none of the scenes looked artificial or contrived. In this movie, a few of Menon’s encounters with various suffering girls look believable, but later they become really artificial through repetitiveness.

In this movie, we could not understand Gopinatha Menon. Most often he is seen as a problem solver, often by taking matters into his own hands. Once when he finds that a pregnant woman died in a hospital due to negligence by doctors, he manhandles them. When girls are in trouble, he fights physically with the perpetrators. He even fights for criminals. We could not fathom how such a man would commit suicide at the end. If we had seen a slow decline in his faith in society, it would have been a bit more logical, but no such attempt is made.

That said, there are some brilliant moments in T.V.Chandran’s screenplay. Most of the scenes in Menon’s life are reconstructed from the retelling by his family and friends. When Renuka meets Menon’s girl friend, she talks about an incident where both of them had to stay in a hotel for a night. While the voice over by Nithya Das says that nothing happened between them, the visuals on the screen show otherwise, which was absolutely brilliant.

Similarly there are many places where the same incident is repeated, from the angles of various people involved in the scene. Once while coming back drunk with his colleagues, he spots his friend played by Vijayaraghavan doing a hunger strike. This scene is told by both Vijayaraghavan and the friends in the car, but unlike Kurosowa’s Rashomon where the story varied based on the person telling it, here it is all consistent.

There are some ridiculous scenes as well. Renuka once goes to an agency which specializes in investigating suicides. The office is filled with women dressed like Air Hostesses in the 1950s, sitting in front of computers, projecting their screens on to walls. On the screens are the names of famous people who have committed suicides. In which office do you see every employee projecting their screens on the wall? This scene made us laugh even though the context was serious.

Dileep tries to show that he can do a movie without comedy and succeeds to a certain degree. His range moves from over the top (while shouting at other people) to subtle (his expressions when he knows that his girl friend is leaving him). Indrans appears in a short role, but makes it memorable as a thief. Pandiyarajan, Cochin Haneefa, Vijayaraghavan, Bindu Panicker and many other known faces give very realistic performances even though they appear briefly. Unlike the background music in Padom Onnu: Oru Vilapam which was loud, irritating and manipulative, this one was very restrained.

While lot of people have questioned the motive in making a film glorifying suicides in a state which leads the nation in the number of suicides, we feel that a film maker has the right to make a film of his choice, and not be restricted by such factors. Still we felt this was a dishonest and artificial film and hope that the ending was not created with an award in mind.

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7 Comments

  1. Heh! The “Suicide Investigator” was brilliant too. The guy looked like that psychiatrist Mathew Vellore. I did not understand that part at all.

    I agree with what you say about all those incidents. Same type of incidents over and over again. The incident of the Andhra guy, where he leaves his daughter’s dead body with Dilip and attends the wedding, looked very weird. Would anyone do that??

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  4. “Menon does not think for a moment and goes and shouts…” – hey! I disagree with you here. (Looks like you hate “thieves” :-) ). Menon went with the thief because he believed that the policeman has stolen thief’s properties and there wasn’t anyone to help the thief! Also, the director shows that the thief is a product of the society! There is no anomaly in the justification.
    “We could not believe that this movie was made by the same director who made Padom Onnu: Ou Vilapam.” – Probably the director didn’t want to be cliched! :-)
    “In this movie, we could not understand Gopinatha Menon…” – Gopinath Menon had very strong view points. He believed in actions, his decisions were spontaneous, and hence his character. And he was an ordinary man with flesh and blood! :-)
    “We could not fathom how such a man would commit suicide at the end. If we had seen a slow decline in his faith in society, it would have been a bit more logical, but no such attempt is made.” – Menon’s character justifies his suicide. I think, the director is conveying “what he could not do” through Menon.
    “That said, there are some brilliant moments in T.V.Chandran’s screenplay” – Yes, the screenplay is very brilliant! The way the director walks us through the minds of all those who are there in the screen! Lots to learn from the film!
    “There are some ridiculous scenes as well. Renuka once goes to an agency which specializes in investigating suicides” – Yes, these are very dramatic. Shows, how people can live on suicides! :-) Employees of that investigating agency get money (yes, indirectly) out of suicides!
    “Still we felt this was a dishonest and artificial film and hope…” – I disagree!

    I do not intend to offend you by these comments, but am trying to justify the movie from my perspective. Thanks.

    PS. Kindly ignore the smilies. :-)

  5. This film proves that Dileep cannot act.

    Nice sript and direction.

    But Dileep was horrible.

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  7. for the shame of being alive…

    Perhaps, life is not that easy and simple for those who realize and analyze their day to day life and surroundings.

    kathavaseshan begins with, the protagonist, Gopinath (played by Dileep), an engineer by profession, gets up in the morning as every one does, freshens himself up, reads the daily news paper and commits suicide. In fact, here he cannot be considered as the protagonist as he is not leading he plot, which instead is carried by the stories about him, told by those who were near to him. So, after the first scene the protagonist is dead and only the stories about him survive and this explains the title. From the stories narrated by his uncle, sister, so many old friends who had worked and walked with him, The girl with whom he was in love for a long period, a thief, a police officer, a driver, his servant and a camera man we learn that the hero was a very ordinary human, politically active, sensitive to his surroundings and behaved adequately to situations. This is significant in a society where people are becoming more and more self oriented. This reminds me of an incident that happened in Kerala a few years back. A mad man killed another man, by holding his head under water, while so many people were watching. No one from the spectators responded and some guys even took the photographs and were published in next day’s news paper.

    The director knows that he is trying to provoke a numb society, inactive in all kinds of social action and thought. T. V.Chandran, had done this earlier in films like Susanna and Danny. I very much like his movie language and his method of composing shots. Most of the acting appears to be so artificial and that is deliberate too, for a plot like this. The movie is set as an investigation to the reasons behind his suicide, carried out by his fiancée portrayed here by Jyothirmayee. All characters and incidents revolve around this investigation and take us to the final scene, where we are told the reason for his suicide, and we (at least those who think) admit that we do feel the same shame and helplessness in many occasions in our life. (I don’t think i am revealing a plot point here as the director himself had revealed it before the releasing of the movie, in his interviews.) This movie is also significant in other way as well, that is Kerala, though it is called as the God’s own country, happens to be the place where highest number of suicides are recorded each year.

    an interesting review by Roby Kurian

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