Kaattu (2017) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


A primitive allure that had been long lost makes a revisit through ‘Kaattu’, and it’s a peculiar combo of the dismal and the lyrical that Arun Kumar Aravind comes up with in his new film. It’s a complex character drama that is tonally and visually notable; a foreboding and dark tale that makes for austere viewing and told with an uncanny grace.


Kaattu-Movie-Review-Veeyen

The wind that blows across the craggy turfs of Arun Kumar Aravind’s ‘Kaattu’ is one that stinks of sweat, blood and gunpowder. It’s a callous, ruthless world where men stomp about as rulers of the land, where women huff around striving not to be the caterpillars that get squished under their unfeeling feet and where skulls are crushed, ribs pierced into and rebellious bodies set ablaze.

Chellappan (Murali Gopi) finds the love of life, Muthulekshmi (Varalekshmi Sarathkumar), snatched away from his arms, and meekly leaves her village on her insistence. Years later, the man dabbles with fire crackers to eke out a living, and lives on with memories of his first love still alight in his heart. On one of his many sojourns, he runs into Noohukannu (Asif Ali), a bearer boy at a local arrack shop, takes an immediate liking for him and takes the hapless lad who is tormented by his employer, under his wings.

Kaattu-Movie-Review-Veeyen

The unapologetic pace that Arun Kumar Aravind adopts for ‘Kaattu’ is without doubt premeditated, and the elaborate design that he envisages to root his characters in, is one that keeps its tone consistent. In a scene that is devastatingly edgy, Moopan (Pankan Thamarassery) walks into a shack that is loaded with firecrackers in the dead of the night, and sits there smoking a beedi, as if lost in deep thought. The glimmer at the end of the stub burns on in the darkness, and the moments tick away in silence, as the man finally decides to snap shut a book that had long been left open. Deeply meditative in tenor, this is the kind of material that elevates an ordinary story onto the contemplative realms that you would not expect it to explore.

To abhor the blatant sexism in a film as ‘Kaattu’ would probably serve little other than to senselessly question its intricate characterization. Based on a story that was written years ago by one of the most adored writers of our times, ‘Kaattu’ is more a unequivocal reflection of a misogynistic society than a carnival bash of manhood. The women in it find their dreams trodden on, and their emotions torn to shreds, but the men who treat them as grime are not celebrated as heroes; they are just miserable individuals who have for long stood by the rulings of patriarchy and who harbour personal failings deep within, who have lost the sensibility to think straight and instead dragoon their resentment on any easy prey.

Kaattu-Movie-Review-Veeyen

The three women in ‘Kaattu’, on the contrary, are sturdy survivors in their own right, and as much as they are trampled on, give what’s left of their lives their best go, all the while striving to unearth their own versions of joy and peace. Muthulakshmi, lets her lover flee for his life, and resignedly settles down for a despondent life with a man who does not think twice before burning her flesh with an iron rod grabbed straight off the furnace. Years later, when she comes across the only man that she had ever loved in a debilitated state, she refuses to shed a tear. Ummukulusu (Manasa Radhakrishnan), despite an uptight upbringing, dreams of a career in films in a city far away from her seaside home. Romance and marriage can wait. Kochuparvathi (Saritha), the widow, is an independent loner woman , who has got both her head and feet in place, and who precisely knows to spurn a man who does not enthuse her and brazenly seduce one whom she finds potently fascinating.

Even the lighter moments in ‘Kaattu’ blend in beautifully with the sombre tonality of the piece. Back home on a short break from work,  Noohukannu is delighted to see his mother cook sweets for him, that suspiciously resemble the fire cracker cones that he had been busy making just a while back. In another hilarious scene, a tight slap straight across the optimistic duck farmer’s face who makes an advance on Kochuparvathu, lands him in the pond, with his quacking herd taking the splash for a cue to enter the water, and immediately following suit. A secret night rendezvous ends up literally in smoke for a couple, when someone drops a cracker right in their midst.

Kaattu-Movie-Review-Veeyen

Anandapadmanabhan adopts a story that is as old as the wind itself, and makes it immensely relatable by rephrasing it as a study on faith, trust and allegiance. But there are instances when you wish the account had been narrated with greater economy, and that the dramatics had been replaced by a slightly more dispassionate perspective.

‘Kaattu’ has some exceptionally superior acting performances, and Asif Ali follows up his Omanakuttan act earlier this year, with another bravura presentation that astounds you. The saucer eyed, jelly cheeked Noohukkanu is etched to perfection by the young actor and he matches up the irresolute body language of the character with well defined strokes that deftly draw out the innermost of the character’s extremely odd traits.

And yet, it’s Murali Gopy, who takes hold of the entire film as Chellappan and walks us through the festive ground that life is, with fire showers all around, even as he nonchalantly pulls on the garb of a gruff man who has loved, lost and still lives. There is a brutal rawness to his portrayal of Chellappan that immediately resonates with the viewers, and he strikes an immaculate balance in never letting his act get out of hand. As he walks towards Noohukkanu with a lit cracker in hand, sparks flying across the plucky grin on his face, you realize why you have always been in awe of this terrific actor, and ‘Kaattu’ truly belongs to this man.

Kaattu-Movie-Review-Veeyen

There are also a couple of dazzling supporting performances that deserve an honourable mention. Pankan Thamarassery is a revelation that ‘Kaattu’ brings in its wake, while Manasa Radhakrishnan retains the charming naiveté that makes Ummukkolusu the guileless girl that she is. There is a whopper act from Varalekshmi Sarathkumar as well, and as Muthulakshmi, she looks a far (and infinitely better) cry from the puffed up thug woman that we saw her as, in ‘Kasaba’. Prasanth Raveendran’s outstanding cinematography has you entirely in rapt, and the terrific background score by Deepak Dev, is  arguably the best as yet this year.

A primitive allure that had been long lost makes a revisit through ‘Kaattu’, and it’s a peculiar combo of the dismal and the lyrical that Arun Kumar Aravind comes up with in his new film. It’s a complex character drama that is tonally and visually notable; a foreboding and dark tale that makes for austere viewing and told with an uncanny grace.


Verdict: Good


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