varnachitram

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Review: Kaiyoppu

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Serial blogger D. Keith Robinson has some suggestions for overcoming writer’s block. The simplest idea is: write. The rationale behind this is the fact that if you keep on writing, even if it is something silly, the mind will soon overcome the block and words will flow. Unfortunately, Balachandran (Mammotty) who is working in a fertilizer plant, where almost every visitor expresses the desire to throw up due to the smell, is not seen trying any of Robinson’s tips.

He had partially written a novel, which according to the famous novelist CP (Nedumudi Venu in a cameo), could change the Malayalam literary landscape. On hearing this Shivadasan (Mukesh), a small publisher tags along Balachandran, to convince him to finish the novel. He lives in a lodge, surrounded by his books, in a kind of cocoon.

His interactions with the external world are limited. When asked once why he does not own a cell phone, he retorts, “I have no one to call and no one to call me.” He never talks to others in the lodge, except for the boy-cum-caretaker Babu. He sends money to a Muslim girl about whom he had read in the newspaper. He also has a person who takes care of his land.

This small world changes when he gets a phone call from an  college mate Padma (Khushboo) and  some old memories are triggered. This plus Shivadasan’s prodding results in Balachandran taking up his pen. As the novel progresses, he gets more out of his shell, expresses human emotions explicitly and makes progress on his relationship.

As the movie moves to the climax, with Balachandran selling his land and carrying Rs. 3 lakhs, and going to Calicut with the money and his finished novel, terrorists strike. At this point we were shocked because there was such an impedance mismatch between the story so far and the climax.

This brings up the dilemma. The writer’s block, overcoming the writer’s block, the life of a writer – all those have been done perfectly. Though not novelists, but as people who read a lot and try to write something, these are dilemmas we identify with. So Balachandran’s predicament resonated with us.

The terrorism angle –  we have friends who survived Mumbai blasts and train bombs  — too resonated with us. The problem was with the connection between the two. In fact Ranjith, tries to make the connection – somewhere Shivadasan tells his wife that Balachandran’s novel is a great work of black humor on communalism. But in fact there is nothing in the movie which shows why Balachandran is affected by it – he never mentions any communal incident, he is never seen reading about it or discussing anything communal with anyone. When the policemen make fun of a Balachandran helping a Muslim girl, he seems clueless, unable to understand the situation. When such a person claims to be writing a novel about communal problems, it seems hollow.

Alfonso Cuarón‘s Y tu mamá también , is an example of one movie with multiple layers of narration  – there is a road trip, and there is a commentary on the economic situation in Mexico. To Cuarón‘s credit, he blends them well, right from the beginning. This makes the movie memorable, though some might argue that it is the sex scenes that make the movie memorable. The point we are tying to make is that in such movies you don’t spring up a surprise, like in the climax of a CBI movie. In fact in Kathavaseshan , T K Chandran did a better job in justifying Dileep’s behavior, to the point of making it contrived.

Ratheesh seems to be the only one who has  has seen through this:

Renjith has made the script as a series of patchworks with all good intentions to emphasize his “message” again and again, like some programs in school youth festivals. So, a kind-hearted Hindu helps a poor Muslim, an honest Muslim takes care of the property of a Hindu, and so on. The effort to add a “feel-good” factor related to “Love”, “Bridging between Religions” etc. pops up every now and then in the film. Mammootty tries hard to look truly like a sensitive and introvert writer, and adds a touch of uniqueness in the character, at least externally, by attaching certain mannerisms to Balachandran.

That said, we have to note that Ranjith has not fallen for the 80s standard of art movie making, where if there is a shot of one man walking 1km, the camera is turned on for the entire duration. He has dispensed with that level of pretentiousness and made the movie reasonably well paced.

Still when we see movies like Kaiyoppu, it just fails to connect in a memorable way like the Hindi movie A Wednesday which tackled the issue of terrorism in a brilliant, honest, non-boring way.

(Image via IndiaGlitz)

9 Comments

  1. I saw Kaiyoppu about 3 months back. I was eagerly waiting for this movie , ever since I heard about the trailer and read the theme and my expectations were well met. I enjoyed traveling with Balachandran and I could relate to his sensitivities. To answer your question about his theme of the book and his apparent lack of any experience, it is not necessary for a writer to experience something to write about it. Balachandran is an lover of human feelings ..and I often felt he loves the intricacies of small talk. I liked his progression, his impetus to come out of the writing block ..everything. The only think I did not like, and again this is out of the love for the character, is his untimely death. I really wanted him to succeed, I wanted him to receive accolades and see him go forward.
    Perhaps this is one irony that the film tries to portray…what could have been an excellent intellectual revolution through Balachandran’s book…eventually gets lost due to a different kind of revolution that we are facing today….a bastardized and inhumane revolution.

  2. Abhilash,

    Of course, a writer does not have to experience anything to write about it. But he could talk about it. In the movie there is nothing to indicate that Balachandran is bothered about it. So it is a leap of faith.

  3. I watched this movie quite recently and was well surprised by the content and overall feel. I do think it moved along at a reasonable pace, rating it by my own ‘coffee-break method’. I only needed one coffee break.

    Agreeing with the other comments in the fact that one do not have to actually experience something directly to write about it as long as the person have enough acquired knowledge to make a valid opinion on the subject. Throughout the movie it establishes the fact that Balachandran is a well read character with pretty good knowledge of human life and current affairs(despite not being the same when it comes to technological advances, maybe). Also the fact that the subject of terrorism quite randomly pops up towards the final 10 % of the movie is also reflective of the common man, who regularly reads it in newspapers or watch it on TV, but goes on with his life, his goals, the goodwill and then one day he’s suddenly caught in the middle of it all, unprepared and his reflexes shy. Just the right time devoted to that particular topic, I would say. If you stretch it a bit more, you have to worry about it getting too sensitive, controversial, distracting from the real message and the works. Unnecessary.

    I was also entirely surprised with the performance of almost everyone involved, they were all quite natural. Mammooty has almost always shone in similar understated characters. The girl, kind of reminded me of my own little sister with the accent and the passively introvert mannerisms.

    A bonus point for Ranjith’s (or anyone else responsible) idea to resurrect an age old gem ‘Jalte Hain’.

    I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

  4. “Still when we see movies like Kaiyoppu, it just fails to connect in a memorable way like the Hindi movie A Wednesday which tackled the issue of terrorism in a brilliant, honest, non-boring way.”

    agree w/ u 101%
    Malayalam cinema lacks good filmmakers and script writers! period.

  5. Has anyone seen or heard of the Telugu film “Swathi Kiranam” (1992)
    by K. Vishwanath, which has Mammootty in the lead role. Heard it was a pretty good film, I’ve never even heard of this film until now from a Telugu friend of mine.

  6. Kaiyoppu is not an outright movie against terrorism.Please do not compare it with movies like Wednesday(of course it was an exceptional film).but both belong to different genres.Kaiyoppu is the movie of a person ,a writer and importantly a representative of the kind of people who are very rare now;those people who also care for others.The director Ranjith’s intentions are not to portray a fight against terrorism.It is an ordinary individual’s story and the movie sits very well in its place.
    The climax of the movie may have few links with terrorism but still it was used to to convey that how the life of death of an individual is linked with life of many others around him.

  7. Going against the grain is something I too love to indulge in, but in this case, there simply isn’t merit for that.

    Of course, Balachandran is a hero and has a few of the quintessential trappings of one – like the boundless love for all humanity that he drowns everyone in his vicinity with.

    I can only wince at Ratheesh’s observations. The girl whom the Hindu Balachandran supports is a Muslim and the innocent lodge-keeper is revealed to be another Muslim, so what? Is it so filmy and messagey for two people from different faiths to share a bond? Unless and until Moditva happens, two people taken at random could be from any major faith. And I’m convinced that Ratheesh on a mission, when I read that “at many places, the attitude of the superstar shows up” because he ends his conversation with the Muslim girl quickly. Balachandran is a certified bookworm and introvert, whose interactions with people are formal (note his words to Babu just before he departs – kind but somehow detached) and measured. Even during his long phone chats with Padma, he is mostly a listener.

    I was shocked and later saddened by the way Kayyoppu ended. Though I could understand the Common Man’s angst in A Wednesday, I couldn’t relate to it. It was like, taking an idea and stuffing it into the protagonist’s mouth. Balachandran’s tragedy was personal and therefore it connected more with me. And A Wednesday is just an intelligent thriller. Honest? Oh, come on.

    A reply would be nice.

  8. I felt Kayyoppu was a master piece. The overall movie is a message against terrorism. And the director achieved that without even mentioning about terrorism except for the last few minutes of the movie.

    A Wednesday was a good movie.. But the story is not something which happens to most of us. But Kayyoppu tells a story that can happen to anyone of us. Whenever a bomb blast occurs, we are affected in the way the characters in Kayyoppu are affected…
    Common people, who have a life like us, who have to keep many promises, do many things are gone in just a few moments.. They don’t get a chance to change anything.. This is the message the director tries to give.. And as far as I am considered, the director has succeeded in that..

  9. Dear All
    the attempt made by renjith and mammootty to give us a meaningful cinema really deserves high appreciation, i dont believe this is a movie against terrorism; ofcourse a wednesday too a good movie but it is strictly against terrorism; but kayyoppu is left out with lots of pain inside our hearts while leaving the theatre; and lot of questions too around; infact it is really difficult to find such characters in the present world; we love each characters; there are no villains; as renjith told in the end of the movie; those who keep bombs on the street, they never knew or never worried about the loss; the loss is happened to the characters and viewers of the movie. One of the best renjith.

    Again its a big loss for those who have not yet seen such a beautiful movie like this.

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