Sunday, June 12, 2016

കോലങ്ങൾ (Kolangal) (1981)

Director: K. G. George
Writers:  P.J. Antony, K.G. George
Cast:         Rajam K. Nair, Menaka, Nedumudi Venu, Thilakan
Language: Malayalam

Film is an adaptation of P.J. Antony's novel 'Oru Gramathinte Almavu' which translates as 'A Village's Soul'. It is set in a central Kerala village and basically got all types of characters that will be there in a traditional village. The main storyline is about two neighbouring families run by two matriarchs who are at loggerheads with each other due to garden-variety neighbourly reasons. Both these matriarchs encourages gossips about each other's daughters which ultimately proves to be self-destructive.

It is common for Malayalam films from recent times to glorify village life and project them as models of goodness. Indian reality is such that these villages are, more often than not, bastions of conservatism and petiness. They tend to be tyrannical for its younger generation who don't want to conform. You have all sorts of people keeping an eye on your lives and dictating it in direct and indirect manners. The village characters in this film are: Nedumudi Venu- Goon and a peeping Tom, Thilakan- Rich drunk guy, a professional gossiper, Sreenivasan- tea shop owner, a sensible village elder and the goodish boatman. It all might sound very clichéd but they are done very well rooted on reality. Panchavadipaalam did an exaggerated take on political happenings in a village and Kolangal does the same on normal village life in a not very exaggerated manner.

It would have been jarring if it was the male characters who were solely destroying the lives of the younger daughters but it is alright as it is their mothers who are doing the worst with their petiness. Another thing which makes the film stands out is that most of the characters in it are Christians and from a poor background which is not a usual combination in malayalam films. Cinematography and the frames are quite great, which is also unusual for malayalam films from those era. The background music when Nedumudi Venu does his peeping Tom routine is pure genius. A minor gripe I have with the film is that some of its characters are a bit cartoonishly goodish in nature and there is an element of compensating for its other perennially cunning characters. Rajam K. Nair deservedly won a state award for her portrayal of the working class matriarch. It is also an early film from Thilakan's career who is unsurprisingly excellent as the drunk guy with Hitler moustache.

Rating: 4.5/5