Friday, May 20, 2016

കമ്മട്ടിപ്പാടം (Kammatti Paadam) (2016)

Director: Rajeev Ravi
Writer:    P. Balachandran
Cast:      Dulquer Salman, Vinayakan, Manikandan
Language: Malayalam

Rajeev Ravi's third feature film tells the story of a bunch of boys from an area in Ernakulam called Kammatti Paadam. They grew up to be what is colloquially called as members of a 'Quotation Team', a euphemism for the low rung enforcers of local mafia.  The story follows them from their childhood to teenage years and then to mid-twenties and finally to when they are in their 40s. 

The title, Kammatti Paadam, refers to an area of Ernakulam which lies to the back of KSRTC Bus Stand. It is basically a tale of the growth of the city told from the perspective of its main protagonists, characters played by Dulquer and Vinayakan. Film begins in the present with Dulquer struggling to stay alive in a bus to Ernakulam with a stab wound. The backstory is told using a well-known concept of 'Life flashes before your eyes just about when you are about to die' and the recent Malayalam film, James & Alice, is another one which employed the same. The basic concept of the film can be summed up as a representation of 'Gentrification' of Ernakulam city told through a bunch of characters who get gentrified in their life due to it. They were part of it both as people who helped in displacing the original people to make way for high-rise buildings and also as victims who got nowhere in their lives even as they were just used up by their paymasters. 

A title of 'Once upon a time in Kammatti Paadam' would have been quite fitting for this film as it shares a lot with Sergio Leone's 'Once upon a time in America' in both its characterization and the way the story is told. It is also another film which begins its back-story through its main protagonist's memories as he lies in his deathbed. Only difference is that in Rajeev Ravi's film, the characters remain slumdogs. Another film that one would be reminded of is the Brazilian one- 'City of God' in terms of its rawness and the characters played by both Vinayakan and Manikandan, who revels in his role as the eldest gangster among them, would remind you of couple of characters from it. 

It is overall a great watch even though the strength of the central relationship between Krishnan (Dulquer Salman) and Ganga (Vinayakan) is not quite convincing. I also had issue with some of the lazy narration in it, especially during scenes where some of the characters in the present tell Krishnan about when they had last seen Ganga. These are some things you would never expect from a Rajeev Ravi film who is quite known for his aversion to traditional narrative techniques. I also felt the light-weightness of Dulquer's acting in many occasions. Rajeev Ravi is known for his tremendous casting of supporting characters and this one is no different with plenty of excellent new actors in it. One doesn't need to wax lyrical about cinematography in his films as it is quite understood how it is gonna be. Both his previous films, Annayum Rasoolum and Njan Steve Lopez, had quotation teams as characters and their influence in the films grew as he moved from former to latter. In his third film, they occupy almost the entire story. It is the least Rajeev Ravisque film out of the three and his weakest effort but it is still a great watch.

PS: It is quite ironic to see Dulquer Salman occupying almost all the space in its posters when it can be argued that Vinayakan is its central character. Maybe that is quite apt since the film is mainly about people who fall by the wayside.

Rating: 4/5