Looking back, ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ strikes you as a strange case of having a bit too much and yet having never even nearly enough. Teeming with characters, ornately mounted and extensively shot, it’s the sort of film that could have been an epic, but ends up anything but a legend instead.
These are times of immense experimentation in cinema, and Rathish Ambatt’s ambitious film ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ scores brownie points in deciding not to give in to the conformist claptrap. Well, at least structurally. With a narrative design that audaciously stands apart, ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ is a film that could have scaled lofty heights, but which, after a brief sojourn amidst the clouds, is destined to drop back down on the earth with a thud.
The process that underlies the creation of history is as appealing as history itself, and writer Murali Gopy and director Rathish Ambatt have a jewel of an idea in their hands when they start off their film with the words of Bonaparte, that history is nothing but a set of lies agreed upon. A group of bar owners in Kerala, who are sick and tired of the ever-changing policies of the left and right wing parties, decides to propel a political party of their own into the major league and limelight, and win the elections.
Realizing that a hero is the need of the hour, they entrust Pulikesi (Bobby Simha), a Tamil film director with a penchant for super hits, to craft a movie on their party ILP and on Kammaran Nambiar (Dileep), a revolutionary who through his valorous deeds has earned himself a reference in an English novel, penned by a British officer who had served in India before the days of independence. They head over to Nambiar’s humble abode, where the old man agrees to narrate his story to Pulikesi.
Kammaran’s tale, much to Pulikesi’s astonishment is fraught with disappointments, and the director in no time recognizes that the frail man lying in front of him, is anything but hero material. Not one to let down the folks who had sought his assistance, he reworks the story to create ‘Sambhavam’; his film that fictionally fabricates history, rewrites box-office records and catapults Kammaran to heroism and international fame.
Here is a script that is as elaborate as it gets – divided into two chapters; one for the original Kammaran who truly was, and the other for the one recreated solely for commercial purposes. And yet it blotches it all up with a torrent of events and instances, most of which are as speedily lost on us as they have been crafted.
History goes for a toss, and after a while it seems like anything and everything goes, when you are stacking lies upon lies, structuring a manor of falsehood. Events are replicated, redesigned and cooked up and as the freedom struggle rages on, Mahatma Gandhi walks in, and so does Subhash Chandra Bose, and India amidst all this bizarreness gains freedom.
‘Kammara Sambhavam’ runs for an unbelievably long three hours, and is pulled down time and again by a whole lot of issues, the primary one being that the core tale of oppression that it narrates is bereft of any inventiveness. Neither of the versions hence bring about a burst of goose bumps, nor do the immaterial song sequences, or the literally over-the-train-top action sequences.
Love, valour and deceit, and stories that are woven around them hold a lot of promise, but equally run the danger of landing into predictable potholes. It is this blandness that lies at its centre that renders ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ the cumbersome film that it evolves into. Pluck out the ingenuity of the multiple narratives, and there is nothing that draws you to this material, and it stares back at you like a missed opportunity.
Dileep as Kammaran Nambiar carries over the shades of several roles that we have previously seen the actor in, and if I were to pick one from among the three makeovers that he does for the film, I would go for the Kammaran who is way past his prime, heavily made up and lying sick on his bed. Its Siddharth who however emerges the real star of ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ if you pretend to forego his slightly discomfited dubbing, while Murali Gopy in a role that is tailor made for him is also impressive. Namitha Pramod fits into the mould of the customary heroine with ease, while Swetha Menon brings life to the indomitable Maheswari. It totally fails me where it is that they unearth these foreign actors from, whose performances are unbelievably outlandish.
The canvas that Ratheesh Ambatt has employed for ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ is an exhaustive one, and for the most part, courtesy some exceptional cinematography by Sunil KS, it remains a visually appealing piece. There are also several instances when you feel dismayed at the technical glitches, like the war scenes or even the long drawn out climax when Kammaran climbs atop a moving train to meet his adversary.
Looking back, ‘Kammara Sambhavam’ is a strange case of having a bit too much and yet having never even nearly enough. Teeming with characters, ornately mounted and extensively shot, it’s the sort of film that could have been an epic, but ends up anything but a legend instead.