Movie ‘Kumbalangi Nights’ (Amazon) Directed by : Madhu Narayanan, Written by : Shyam Puskaran
What stood out for me:
You learn that ‘the complete man’ is just what it is : the tag line of an illusion. Clothes do not maketh the man; character does.
Kudos Fahad Faasil for those maliciously gleaming, unblinking eyes that watch and judge and threaten at the same time. I cringed along with his wife and sister-in-law when he leered, ‘Are you speaking about me?’
( No chetta, we were not! We were discussing something ‘personal.’ But there is nothing like ‘personal space’ where a predator rules, is there?)
Every time he called his wife away, I wondered whether she would get ‘punished’.
The passive aggressiveness of that lecherous, narcissistic, all-controlling behavior, smug expressions and the venom of his toxic masculinity brought back many chilling memories of various encounters with similar characters in the life-journey.
When Fahad’s character ‘Shammy’ derides the uncle who cooks delicious meat vindaloo for them, he says ‘I have a decent job’ and that ‘ I will not enter the kitchen’. How beautifully his pathetic biases are brought to light in a seemingly innocuous scene. The thick moustache which he prunes carefully, his ‘ lord of the manor’ approach by taking on the head chair at the table, the eerie smile on his face while his eyes glint with menace, his envy of the love birds inside the home-stay, his intolerance of anyone dishonoring his so called sense of being a ‘man’…wonderfully depicted!
Even if there was no denouement of his turning into a loony nut at the end (For a moment I was transported back to the half laughable but horrendously true birthday massacre of Parasite) I would have accepted that many were doomed to be ‘killed’ by such a biased mind.
Light, laughter, love, freedom, growth all die before such personalities.
The evolution of Shane Nigam’s Bobby from a stoned rebel who sneers, ‘why buy a tea shop for a cup of tea’ (degrading the relationship of his friend and his girl) to the sensitive young man cradling his bleeding love at the end is remarkable.
The changes in the character as he taunts his indignant girl friend ( how beautifully the young actress Anna Ben enacts Babymol with her expressive eyes!) ‘I am a man!’ in the theatre where she rebuffs his obvious lustful overtures to the spontaneous hug when he understands her commitment to their relationship, were subtle but stunning. He learns that love is not his birth-right by being a male and that he has to earn it.
The scene when Bobby’s friend sternly tells him not to mock his fiance since ‘ she respects me and strengthens my sense of self’ is touching. That is exactly what love is all about- enhancing each other.
When Babymol encourages Bobby to take up ‘fishing’ for a living, because he is a natural, he wonders ‘whether it is a low-profile task’? Her rejoinder is stark and powerful: ‘Telling that to someone who relished her fish curry and rice in the morning?’ (Hey, if you can do something which is of value to others, that task is definitely worth pursuing!)
In the beginning of the movie, all the women characters were working and the men seemed to be loafers! Towards the end, almost all had found their vocations and were comfortable working. Love, it seems, also encourages taking up responsibility. Good one!
Tremendous acting prowess disguised as utter simplicity! That was Soubin Shahir as Saji. I enjoyed that hearty guffaw when he forces his recalcitrant step brother to call him ‘chetta’ after a lifetime! Heart warming, to say the least. And when he lay prostrate at the feet of the pregnant wife of his dead friend, the scene poignantly revealed the power of mercy.
There was an old Russian story with fabulous illustrations when I was a child. It used to be a favourite read. A jug toppled off a merchant’s cart on the countryside. One by one, several animals end up living inside that, in perfect harmony. I still remember the wonder with which I gazed at the painting as fox, rabbit, cat and bird made themselves a snug home inside one old jug which seemed to expand with each ‘stray’ who needed a home. It was this beauty that I rediscovered in the dilapidated house, where one by one, the outcasts find a refuge.
The wonderful acting of Grace Antony is worth highlighting. The wife’s warmth getting systematically doused by her malicious spouse, the facial expressions as she reads between the lines and comprehends the unspoken evil were very sharply executed! Her shrinking body language, on listening to that condescending line , ‘Go inside, you will lose your complexion if you stand in the sun!’ was perfect! And her palpable fear of the looming evil as Fahad’s character stands in the corner was absolutely on mark.
I wanted to read Agatha Christie’s Philomel Cottage yet again!
There is an ineffable charm and ease with which Sreenath Bhasi acts. As a mute brother,caring and sensitive, he is perfect for the role. After watching him in the movie ‘Kappella’ (The Chapel) and being caught by surprise by that ambivalent character, it was delightful to rediscover the actor in this movie.
The cinematography, the natural styles all have been praised by many viewers. The enchanting beauty of the lagoons and isles of Kerala were brought back to me during the hours of the movie.
From a football field initially to music and light at the end- both metaphorical and literal-it was a worthy ride indeed on a skiff of imagination. Thanks to the writer, director and every team member for this joy. Keep gracing us with many more of such films.
Post Script: Was I the only one who wondered on the inexplicable likeness of Shane Nigam’s smile and body language with that of the young Mohanlal?