Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham Review: A mindless fun adventure designed for the genuine laughs
Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham director: Ratheesh Balakrishna Podhuval
Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham star cast: Nivin Pauly, Grace Anthony, Vinay Forrt.
Streaming Platform: Hotstar
Review by Arjun Menon
There were great expectations right from the time Ratheesh Balakrishna Podhuval announced his sophomore directorial outing starring Nivin Pauly in the lead, after his solid debut Android Kunjappan that released almost two years back. Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham streaming on Hotstar furthers the quirky yet snappy sensibilities of a filmmaker who is bursting with a flair for mining humour from the most mundane of exchanges that we see all around us, in the secret corridors of public spaces and the uncomfortable silences echoing in male-dominated discourses.
The film drives its grueling narrative force from the classic confusion comedies of yesteryear’s patented by Priyadarshan, which dealt with a host of downright absurd characters entrapped in a vicious, comical loop of their own ensuing in a grand twisted comedy of errors. The director here uses the chamber drama format to tell the story of a group of people stuck inside a seemingly cosy hotel in Munnar where the lead characters come to reinvigorate their lost honeymoon, in an attempt to drive some sense of belonging in their flittering marriage.
Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham transcends the boundaries of a routine honeymoon comedy with its refreshingly deft plotting and character choices. The touring couple, find themselves in a little bit of a fix concerning a lost earring that triggers forward a hayward narrative that digs up past secrets, revelations and mud slinging within the confines of the hotel lobby. Pavithran ( Nivin Pauly) is a junior artist in films , who fails to land any substantial part in films owing to the lack of any real talent and his wife Haripriya (Grace Anthony), an ex “serial actress”, forced upon a life away from the spotlight, who is looking to set things straight with her emotionally distant husband, find themselves in a pickle when the MacGuffin driving the plot – an newly gifted earring , a symbol of truce in the troublesome marriage goes missing inside the hotel premises. The situation is spiced up by an array of wacky, idiosyncratic characters who inhabit the much-reputed hotel, that used to lodge famous film stars in the past, a detail that allows the director to infuse a reverential gaze to the movie with movie posters and references galore.
The film derives its zealous energy from a densely populated ensemble cast that is bound together by a loopy screenplay that pretty much acts as a bouncing board for the characters to burst into frustrated rants about their depressing lives, societal pretences and the forces that drive the very sense of their being. The film sacrifices the plot at the altar of honest character work that lends voices to the players stuck inside the weird, oddly confusing universe of the stage play that the film opens with in the first place. The writing is pretty tangential in the sense that characters at various points of the conversations, slip out of the object of their pursuit; the gold, to go about delivering cheeky one lines on the current social, political and cultural aspects of modern life that they often contradicted with their heightened emotional outbursts.
The staging is pretty impressive as we get the sense of the slowly winding tension within the closed space as random guests populate the hotel lobby; a writer researching for his next novel, the hotel manager trying desperately to log off his duty for the day to meet his nagging girlfriend, a group of weird room service boys lead by a curious looking man who has no qualms about throwing the minority status of his religion at people’s faces at will, the minute an accusation is heralded at him ; an offhand yet slightly uncomfortable portrait of today’s India and its bigoted religious prejudices. The camera effortlessly switches between the fierce monologues in closeups to the wide shots capturing the inherent chaos creeping in with the help of physical comedy with abuses and punches hurled at each other.
Nivin Pauly is buffed up and pitch-perfect in a role that demands him to flimsy and caricaturist all in the right places, yet again proving that he handles physical comedy the most efficiently among the younger generation of Malayalam actors. Grace Anthony too bring in a lived-in depth to the character whose basic conceptional flaw is overcome by her earnestness. The narrative dominated by men surprisingly has two women anchoring the proceedings taking their decisions for themselves instead of waiting around for the men to save the day. Vinay Fort too gets a well-written part that cashes in on his distinct vocal ranges with ample support from Jaffer Idukki doing the heavy lifting with his sharply written repartees.
The film slightly fumbles in its last act, which is supposed to the long-awaited culmination of the various strands of individual setups revealed early, only to fall back to abrupt payoff, with slightly over drawn sequence towards the end aimed at delivering the laughs but the laughs had died by then and we have pretty much entered a strange space, with no clue as to how to react to the events unfolding on the screen. The Wes Anderson-esque nature of the film pretty much ends with some of the visual choices made and framing devices opted and the movie ends up having neither the philosophical heft of an Anderson movie or the pure escapist pleasures derived from a Priyadarshan comedy, falling into a new territory that might or might not work for everyone. This is a film designed to serve a harmless laugh amidst all the troubling news surrounding us and we can only sit back and wait for any deeper implications to the crazy, timely fun that the film offers.