'Kayamkulam Kochunni' movie review: Slow but worth it

'Kayamkulam Kochunni' movie review: Slow but worth it

A still from 'Kayamkulam Kochunni'.

Kayamkulam Kochunni

Malayalam (U)

Cast: Nivin Pauly, Priya Anand, Mohanlal, Sunny Wayne, Priyanka Thimmesh

Director: Rosshan Andrrews

Rating: Three and a half stars

After receiving five pounds of gold, when Kochunni is asked what he will do with it, he lists out a host of noble causes from giving some of it to a friend for her marriage to arranging a feast for the poor. This scene defines the Robin Hood-like thief's nature throughout Kayamkulam Kochunni — a selfless champion of the poor. However, it is this characterisation that makes one wonder if the director has oversimplified the story by sketching characters in simple black-and-white with no grey shades.

Leaving his family and starting out on his own to escape the reputation of being a thief's son, Kochunni, played by Nivin Pauly, is forced by the circumstances around him to become just that. But his selfless nature makes him steal from the rich aristocrats only to provide for the poor, ultimately making him their hero.

While Pauly has worked hard for his portrayal of the bandit, even showing some prowess in Kalaripayattu, his character lacks depth. We rarely know what he feels and thinks. Even as all his close associates betray him, we do not know how he feels or what he makes of it.

The story of Kayamkulam Kochunni is close to the heart of most Malayali’s, as it is an oft-repeated folklore. The director, Rosshan Andrrews, has a tough task to retell the story for the screen.

Though the scenes are well fleshed out with care given to every detail, they sometimes tend to be dragged unnecessarily. Andrrews has a long story to tell and he takes his own time to narrate it. The story unravels at a slow pace, with vivid details and several subplots (some even unnecessary). The setting and the introduction last almost the first half of the movie and it is only towards the interval that the story picks up pace.

Just as one begins to wonder where the movie is heading, Mohanlal walks in as the bandit, Ithikkara Pakki, to show some direction — not only to the movie but also to Kochunni. When all seems lost for the young man and he’s contemplating suicide, Pakki gives him (and also the film) a purpose — of seeking revenge and in the process becoming the dreaded bandit. Mohanlal, in his bandit outfit, lights up the screen and breathes life into the story just as it is reaching a drab pace and leaves soon after.

The background music proves to be another highlight of the film bringing the thrill element at the right places. It almost sounds like the pulse of the film as it infuses life into every scene.

An item number is casually roped into the story without actually adding anything to the narrative. Similarly, some action-packed scenes have also been thrown in. Instead, maybe a tighter script would have helped more in holding the audience's interest.

Though Pauly plays a very convincing role as the bandit, Priya Anand as his love interest, Janaki, fails to leave a mark. Though introduced quite early in the film, she disappears soon after only to return towards the end in a new avatar, albeit not as remarkable.

Set in the feudal Kerala of the 19th century, the film makes some passing commentary on the caste system of the day, but nothing that has not already been said and heard. It raises some important caste-based issues but does not seek to find a resolution and does not dwell on them for too long. However, in the last scene in the film, one can read a larger message — in Kochunni’s victory we also see the victory of the subjugated people over the aristocrats.

The period film is worth a watch for its cinematography and detailed setting but you will need to have some patience to watch it unravel.