[A late] Review – Kammatipaadam (2016)

Kammatipaadam is a gritty, testosterone-driven crime drama that also happens to be one of the most visually striking cinematic pieces ever made in Malayalam. The screenplay by P Balachandran does not hold many surprises in store for the discerning viewer, but is upheld righteously owing to some knockout performances. Leading the pack is Manikandan who plays the role of Balettan, the dark-skinned thug who carves a niche out for himself with his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and daredevil antics, indirectly becoming an idol to his brother Ganga, played superbly by Vinayakan and his buddy Krishnan, played by none other than Dulquer Salmaan.

The coming-of-age portions are dealt with in a rather light-hearted fashion but with shades of grey and ample splashes of gore. The actors playing the younger selves of Ganga and Krishnan are also impressive and bring in enough charm to keep the viewer engrossed in the process of their upbringing. Few incidents of gang-wars, bloodshed and bootlegging leave a mark in their lives and these portions are handled deftly by director Rajeev Ravi. How violence becomes an integral aspect of their lives is portrayed effectively in the initial flashback bits. The romantic angle is also not forced at all, and possesses its own charm, blending smoothly with the scenario. Probably the only time the proceedings looked slightly contrived was during the prison fight sequence, which appears like it has been added merely to give DQ an opportunity to exhibit his superstar prowess.

The characterization of the three leads is something that deserves a special mention. Although Kammatipaadam is a film that runs close to 180 minutes, the director makes sure that the enchanting spell he has seemingly cast on the viewer is sustained from the very first shot of a stabbed Krishnan, trying to get onto a bus and ends up hazily reminiscing his good ol’ days in chronological fashion. The musical score by K is absolutely outstanding and undoubtedly worthy of a standing ovation. His work in Yuddham Sei, Annayum Rasoolum and Kirumi may have helped in the industry taking notice of his talent, but Kammatipaadam validates his position amongst the best BGM composers in South India today. A delightful cocktail of instrumentals and blend of various musical styles, the background score of Kammatipaadam is certainly one of its unique selling points.

The cinematography by Madhu Neelakantan brilliantly captures the emotions of each of the characters and fuses them effectively against the backdrop of an evolving Ernakulam city. The narrative tries to elucidate how the current city took shape through the lives of these not-so-endearing local thugs. How the richer section of the society manipulated the dalits for their own benefits and the take-over by the real estate mafia, are depicted in glorious fashion. There are quite a few standout scenes that will linger in your memory long after you’ve seen the film. Like when Balan tells his grandpa that the farming skills they have imbibed from their forefathers are of zilch utility in a place that is filling up with flats and factories. The ardent film-buff in me will never forget Manikandan’s and Vinayakan’s performances in Kammatipaadam. Credit should also go the supporting cast that includes Vinay Forrt, Shine Tom Chacko, Shaun Romy, Amalda Liz, Alancier, Suraaj Venjaramoodu, Anil Nedumangad, Soubin Shahir (he will surprise you as Karate Biju!), the writer P Balachandran himself and an array of actors many of whom I am not able to recall by name (like the ones who played Ganga’s father and grandpa).

Those who still haven’t watched the film citing too much violence as a reason, I urge those people to do so, invoking that very reason. The violence delineated in this film is out of necessity, and not in the name of mindless masala. This is crime-drama at its finest, people!

**** out of five stars

Watch the trailer here:

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