The Malayalam film industry is slowly recovering after being derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. With films like ‘Kurup’, ‘Jaan E Man’ and ‘Ellam Sheriyavum’ drawing audiences back to theaters, and with films like ‘Churuli’ released on SonyLIV being widely discussed for their unconventional filming and history, the cinema Malayalam is certainly diversifying with emphasis. about experimentation and new narratives.
However, movies with superstars and mass elements continue to generate hype, especially in their fan circles. Ever since filmmaker Nithin Renji Panicker announced ‘Kaaval’ with actor and politician Suresh Gopi in the title role, fans of the actor were ready to celebrate another massive movie on screen. Known once as the angry young man of Malayalam cinema, Suresh Gopi cemented his place in the industry through his action hero roles, especially the energetic policeman roles. Suresh Gopi’s return in another powerful and action-oriented role after many years was the highlight of ‘Kaaval’. But did ‘Kaaval’ meet all expectations and expectations? We will surely find out in a few days.
Kaaval is set against the backdrop of Idukki, a high-end district in Kerala. The film tells the story of two friends, Antony (Renji Panicker) and Thampan (Suresh Gopi), who were once the saviors of peasants and oppressed people. Antony and Thampan acted as a parallel justice system in the region as they listen to and resolve complaints raised by hapless farmers tortured and exploited by landowners, police, and even Maoists.
The film begins with the current condition of Antony and his family, consisting of a son and daughter who are frequently humiliated by a moneylender and his thugs. Antonio, who lost a leg, is now only a shadow of his past and he has no strength left to save his children from the moneylender and his thugs. With no one to help him, Antony decides to seek the help of his friend Thampan, from whom he has long been separated. But, Antony dies in a car accident on the way to meet Thampan. Instead, his son meets Thampan and asks for his help. Thampan initially hesitates to return to the place he once left, but ultimately does so to protect his friend’s children.
The movie then gets into the typical track of following Thampan, who manages the moneylender, the bad cops, and the bullies. Kaaval’s story is predictable to the core that even the apparent twist of the climax is no surprise. The film also openly relies on the background score to accentuate the cinematic elements.
If Nithin Renji Panicker’s first film ‘Kasaba’ starring Mammootty got all the unwanted attention for reviving a dangerous trend to glorify derogatory comments against women, his second film ‘Kaaval’ has at least strayed from that trend, although with such dirty dialogues, this time, they were spoken by villains and not by the hero himself. If this change can be seen as progress, all the other elements of this Suresh Gopi protagonist are reminiscent of an old-fashioned style of script and direction from which Malayalam cinema has progressed.
Nithin, the son of director and actor Renji Panicker, still seems to be stuck in the bygone era of Malayalam movies of the 2000s, a period when machismo and massive hero dialogues were the only sources of entertainment. Malayalam cinema has certainly come a long way from such hero-centered mass masala films and has dared to navigate new waters, with prominence given to scripts with human elements and related characters.
However, you cannot question the right of a filmmaker’s choices or his or her intentions behind making a movie. So even if you decide to watch Kaaval in hopes of enjoying a massive entertainer, you’re likely to be disappointed even then. Simply because the script lacks conviction and the characters are half-baked. The film lacks memorable cinematic moments and follows an old-fashioned storytelling style. Last but not least, there is an absence of a strong villain. If anything can save this film, it is the shocking screen presence of Suresh Gopi.
Suresh Gopi’s transformation as a doting father later in the film provides the audience with some poignant moments. Renji Panicker, who is often very convincing with the characters he plays, seemed a bit lively when he played the older Antony. The son of the late actor Rajan P Dev, Kannan Rajan, did justice to the role of a heartless moneylender.