Actor Muhammad Musthafa makes his directorial debut with a film that traverses two genres. Quite effectively at that.
The first time I saw Anna Ben was in Kumbalangi Nights. The film received rave reviews for its stellar cast and a refreshing story-line, not to forget cinematography of such high caliber that each frame resembled a painting. Anna played a character called Baby who harbours a crush on one of the four brothers around whose life the film revolves.
Much like her name in the film, her child-like innocence lit up the screen every time Anna entered the frame. All of 23 years old, this fresh face brought an irresistible charm to the movie and managed to stand out amidst her peers who have all been more experienced actors. It was perhaps this charm that the makers of Kappela too wanted to cash in on.
Their whirlwind romance reminded me of the good-old days of telephones. The shrill ring, chunky sets and coiled wires. How we waited for the elders in the family to step out of the house to frantically start dialing our friends, how the more daring ones among us set codes for calls-
Jessy – the lead actor in the film – is a young girl who lives in the beautiful countryside of Kerala with her parents and a younger sister. She belongs to a working-class family. Her father is a farmer who doubles up as labourer sometimes and her mother stitches clothes to eke out a living. The inflow of cash in the household is erratic and meagre, forcing the parents to choose between seemingly ordinary needs like a cycle for Jessy’s younger sister to ride to school or a smartphone for Jessy to replace her basic mobile phone. But her humble background is more than aptly compensated for the breathtaking surroundings that Jessy inhabits. Be it the stream that flows under a road or the treacherous curves of the lanes or the quaint little statue of Mother Mary, literally hanging off the edge off a cliff.
An innocent mistake introduces Jessy to Vishnu – an auto-rickshaw driver from the city. They start by exchanging witty texts, which quickly spirals into long-drawn out conversations over SMSes, and finally phone calls. They solve riddles over phones, bring each other up to speed about their days, and even plan a meeting at the village fair which doesn’t materialise because of an emergency. By the end of it all, Jessy and Vishnu have fallen head over heels for each other over trunk calls.
Their whirlwind romance reminded me of the good-old days of telephones. The shrill ring, chunky sets and coiled wires. How we waited for the elders in the family to step out of the house to frantically start dialing our friends, how the more daring ones among us set codes for calls – if it rang twice the person on the other end knew who was calling and dashed to pick the receiver before anyone else in the house, and how for the most courageous amongst us all blank calls were often the first move in their blooming love-tales. It was the time when phone cables would tether those on calls, when names didn’t flash on screens and redials were quite a useful feature.
An idyllic love story makes way for a fast paced thriller – a trope being used by several Malayalam filmmakers these days
Just as I was fondly reminiscing the days of yore, the film takes an unexpected turn. Jessy decides to go to Kozhikode to meet Vishnu. What was supposed to be probably the most anticipated moment for Jessy and those watching the film quickly spirals into a nightmare. She finds herself in the middle of a devious plot unable to find a way out. And as soon as one starts to give up on all hope, a parallel plot merges with Jessy’s that gives one a sliver of courage.
The film works wonders at throwing you off gear. An idyllic love story makes way for a fast paced thriller – a trope being used by several Malayalam filmmakers these days (reminded me of the Sai Pallavi – Dulquer Salmaan starrer Kali). The genre is something that I don’t particularly enjoy but if the shock factor is anything to go by, director Muhammad Musthafa manages to pull off a success.
Another thing that the makers get right is making the locations talk. The places act as characters. The scenic village where Jessy lives is an extension of herself – innocent, beautiful and uncorrupted while the cityscape of Kozhikode represents myriad other complexities like greed, lust and deceit.
The film – that released in the same week as Bulbbul – is like Bubbul itself – the story of a woman in a man’s world. While Badi Tahkurain fights her battle herself, a rather naive Jessy needs a saviour to swoop in and rescue her.
Watch the film for the delightful performances by the three leads – Anna Ben, Sreenath Bhasi and Roshan Mathew – and, yet another gorgeous portrayal of ‘God’s own Country’.
Director: Muhammad Musthafa
Producer: Vishnu Venu
Starring: Anna Ben, Sreenath Bhasi, Roshan Mathew
Release date: 6 March 2020 (Theatrical), 22 June 2020 (Netflix)
Photo credit https://www.instagram.com/pravee_ee_ee_n/
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