Gangs of Kummattipaadam

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Narrating a story as old as the hills is a difficult task. It becomes even more daunting when you’re telling the story over 3 decades, especially when you have an endless list of characters.

More than telling the story of childhood friends who later become henchmen of a local strongman, it’s the story of ambitions at odd with lives of these characters, their immediate families and people around them.

In those times of the license raj, a combination of power and muscle was the only way to become upwardly mobile. It was an India that didn’t have a chance to rise above the socioeconomic status. And in Kerala, you either wrote the PSC exams and waited forever or contacted a visa agent about going to the Gelf, as Malayalees say.

Kummattipaadam tells this tale of these characters beginning with their childhood through the eyes of Krishnan (Dulquar). We are told that those were violent times. Perhaps witnessing an atrocity in those formative years sowed the seed in these youngsters to take a path of crime.

The story has a nonlinear format with the protagonist going in search of Ganga (Vinayakan). Krishnan is in dire straits with a physical injury and the story moves back and forth as he slips in and out of consciousness. Though these ‘flashings before his eyes’ we are introduced to their immediate families and the man they look up to – Balan Chettan (Manikandan).

There’s strong bonding of friends, camaraderie, jealous and rivalry while vying for the attention of Anitha (Shoun Romy), greed, betrayal and fear.

More than giving the message that crime doesn’t pay, the subtext is that it’s a vicious circle you can’t get out of. As these characters age, they are trying to find ways and means of leading a normal life like any other man on the street. They also live in the constant fear that they too can be bumped off by someone with an axe to grind.

Rajeev Ravi keeps things very minimalistic. How their crimes from the past comes back to haunt them is the crux of the story. To give credit where it’s due, the direct has almost all the characters ageing gracefully with their outlook and attitude towards changing overtime. To say that P. Balachandran’s script is nothing like you’ve seen before is an understatement. The camera goes seamlessly with the story telling and the editing is top notch. Music occasionally gets a tad bit loud, especially during the action scenes, but the songs have a very folksy, local flavor about them.

For many, this might be unpalatable cinema because it tells some hard truths. Like his mentor Anurag Kashyap and his magnum opus – Gangs of Wasseypur, Rajeev Ravi asks us to take an objective look at the characters and their story. He does not ask you to be emotionally attached nor detached. Somehow, it’s supposed to be all zen…

However, as you get out of the cinema hall, you are disturbed and you are pretty damn sure that this 2 hour 57 minute journey is going to linger in your mind for long.

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