Koode (2018) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


The estimable artistry of the film maker cannot be missed in ‘Koode’; a film that slices right through your heart with its redolent take on human relationships. Working on a fantastical scenario that plays out with an outstanding charm, this gorgeously shot film is a memorable study on love, solitude, estrangement and above all, homecomings.


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The exceptionally perceptive tapestry that Anjali Menon spins around a tale of lost and refound relationships is what makes her latest film ‘Koode’ a laudable cinematic triumph. It’s an experimental film of sorts that does take an audacious chance, which brightly pays off in quite unexpected ways.

Set on a misty old village nestled on a hill station, ‘Koode’ talks of Aloshy (Renjith), his wife Lily (Maala Parvathy) and their son Joshua (Zubin) who are overjoyed at the arrival of a new member in the family. They name the infant Jenny, whom the doctors soon diagnose as terminally ill. When the child’s medical expenses threaten to drown the family in debt, a young Joshua, barely out of his teens is sent off to the Middle East to help his dad make both ends meet. After years of abuse and disgruntlement Joshua (Prithiviraj) grows into a fiercely impassive man, severed off from all the people whom he had once considered his own.  Far away, his sister Jenny (Nazriya) battles with her own demons but turns into a vivacious youngster who dreams of spreading her wings and taking to the air some day.

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Menon’s film is in many ways a reiteration of our inability to spot the tiny specks of colours that have just about made an appearance on the skies, as we strain our eyes through the mizzle elsewhere in anticipation of an enormous, magnificent rainbow that never appears. Losing ourselves in a perennial wait for the perfect instant, we seldom realize the joy of now unwittingly floating away like paper boats set adrift on a stream.

‘Koode’ narrates a tale of resurrection in many ways, and almost all the key characters in it stagger up from the soil on which they had dropped down, fatigued and rendered immobile by the piles of misery that life had heaped over them. Dusting themselves clean, they reach out to the ones that truly matter and start afresh, their fingers entwined and their hearts rediscovering the beats, and their quivering feet finally taking one sturdy step forward.

The opening sequence of the film has Joshua slogging away in the murky confines of a tank, somewhere on an industrial plant in the midst of a desert. Pulling the mask away from his face and drawing a heavy breath of air in, he walks towards the office where a phone call from home awaits. His almost inert eyes dart about a bit before drooping down further as he listens to the voice at the other end.

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Joshua travels back to where home once used to be, and is ushered into his sister’s room, where the family’s dog Brownie keeps him company at night. The ones who surround him are all people who have altered over the years; the ones who had transformed into strangers from kin, and Joshua looks at them from afar, frantically searching among the souvenirs from what seems like another lifetime, the moments that had once held them all together.

The unfastened endings that Menon leaves around by design ensure that Joshua’s discovery of Jenny is left open to varied interpretations. This is without doubt the most vital aspect of the film, and it does not coerce you into the acceptance of a much debated belief. Instead, it unwraps the possibilities of alternative explorations on the psyche of a man, who has been bogged down by the inequity of it all, and who has over a couple of decades, wordlessly retreated into a shell of detachment.

Joshua sees all that he had once held close to his heart spring to life again in Jenny, or through her rather, and it’s not long before we realize that Jenny is perhaps none other than Joshua’s own alter ego. Bonded forever and yet forever apart, these siblings have similar tales of anguish to narrate; Joshua moving further away from everything that he has yearned for, as the moments give way to minutes, months and years on a faraway land and Jenny posing for family portraits with framed photographs of the one person she loves the most in the world – her brother – clutched close to her chest.

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Jenny tags Joshua along on several drives along the narrow plantation roads, where amidst the greens and on the banks of a placid lake, they finally ascertain once and for all as to what they truly mean to each other. In the process Joshua reassesses his strained relationships, unearths the leftovers of a far forgotten romance and relearns after years to break into a smile once again. It’s an extraordinary setting for sure, and a considerate encapsulation of what it means to love and be loved.

The supporting characters are no less efficiently etched. Aloshy has taken to mending broken toys with a renewed fervour, and works his failing eyes around wheels that refuse to roll and wings that do not feel like flying any more. Having lived a life that seems wrecked beyond repair, the old man doesn’t hesitate before picking up the shreds and pieces that lie strewn all around, when Joshua returns home. Snuggling into the dimly lit attic, he busies himself getting his son’s toy railway carriage up and running again, and watches contentedly as the train starts up with a stutter and confidently chugs along the freshly fixed rails.

The melancholic optimism that spills over in vividly crafted scenes as these is what makes ‘Koode’ singularly special. For Joshua who stands by with moist eyes, watching his father gently set the long forgotten train into motion, it’s much more than a mere patching up of scattered memory strands; it’s a gentle reassurance that at times, it takes a while for things to fall into place, and that not all endings are decidedly final.

Lily has on the other hand transformed into a haggard woman who sports a perpetual frown on her worn out face. She is almost certain that there are even more unsolicited surprises for her in store, and wonders if she has the resolve or patience to deal with them anymore. Moving about on unsure feet, she implores Joshua to stay back, desperately hoping to find a purpose that has been lost for quite a while.

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There is a stark emptiness in Sophie’s (Parvathy) gaze that draws you straight in; the young woman carries an astounding weight of disillusionment and glumness around courtesy a miserable marriage that had squeezed the very last bit of exuberance out of her. Unable to take it anymore, she breaks away the fetters and walks out into the world, where she finds herself ensnared by countless probing eyes. It’s not long before she starts hunting around for dark recesses to curl up in, far away from the pawing palms and the toxic tongues.

Back where she truly belongs, Sophie starts threading the beads of a whacked life back together, as Joshua extends an outstretched arm. She is taken aback when the man shows alarming signs of slopping down yet again, but steadfastly lets him the time and space to regain his lost balance. In a stellar scene, Sophie in a bridal costume steadily walks up a hill alongside Joshua;  she’s a picture of poise and strength here and knows that there will be several uphill climbs for sure, but is determined not to be dogged down by the ascents any more.

This is a film that is anchored around terrific performances, and it’s gratifying to see Prithvi back in a role that breaks your heart. There are ample instances in ‘Koode’ that remind you of the terrific actor that we had been missing for a while, and through a delightfully subtle expression of all the turmoil that has been simmering inside Joshua, Prithvi spectacularly scores in ‘Koode’ and how! It also happens to be Nazriya’s best act as yet, and she strikes a delightful balance between loads of liveliness and a pacified calm; a remarkable mix that endears the enigmatic Jenny to us. And there is Parvathy’s feat that is so detailed and nuanced, that even with much lesser scenes and even lesser dialogues, she adeptly adds another gem to an already studded career.

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There is also an entrancing performance from young actor Zubin who plays the younger Joshua, and affecting, poignant portrayals of the distraught parents –  Aloshy and Lily – by Renjith and Maala Parvathy. ‘Koode’ would also be remembered for the enchanting background score by Raghu Dixit, and for the exquisite frames that skilfully match the committed performances, which cinematographer Littil Swayamp has terrifically crafted for the film.

The estimable artistry of the film maker cannot be missed in ‘Koode’; a film that slices right through your heart with its redolent take on human relationships. Working on a fantastical scenario that plays out with an outstanding charm, this gorgeously shot film is a memorable study on love, solitude, estrangement and above all, homecomings.


Verdict: Good 


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