The image that flashes before the eyes of all those who grew up listening about his heroics in various versions and watching various series and reading about him in the Aitihyamala collected and written by Kottarathil Sankunni is fully realized on the screen through Nivin Pauly in the Rosshan Andrews magnum opus.
It is the tale of the legendary outlaw, a highwayman, Kochunni, right from his childhood through to the times of his turning a robber and the treachery by his own men. Rather wisely, the makers came up with a disclaimer that the film is fictional and have clearly taken some creative liberties about the story, that keeps you on the edge of the seat in every scene.
The film starts with Kochunni leaving his native village when his father was brutally punished for thievery. The young Kochunni starts working in a local shop. With the advice given by Janaki (Priya Anand in a brilliant earthy role) who was smitten by him, he learns tricks in Kalarippayattu from a martial arts expert, Thangal played with authenticity by Babu Antony. Having seen dire poverty and the casteist social order of the day and Kochunni’s mind was set on helping the poor.
It wasn’t obviously liked by the upper caste landlords. Those were the times when exploitation and untouchability were peaking. As it is shown in the film, even the Britishers were in supporting the upper caste groups. It is after some dramatic turnarounds that Kochunni becomes a robber, that he was labeled as later in history.
Though the basic story of Kochunni is known to most of the Malayalis, what makes the film engaging is how the various sequences of events get unraveled at an even pace. The highlight sequences are spaced in 10-15 minute intervals for the most part. The pace drops at certain junctures of the story only to give the viewers the ultimate adrenaline rush towards the end with some high-octane action. It is a clever ploy on the part of the screenplay writers Bobby and Sanjay.
Mohanlal’s Ithikkara Pakki makes an entry at the right time and gives the film with the right amount of push. Gopi Sunder’s rousing music adds magic to each of the frames. The scenes are sure to give goosebumps. The action sequences do justice to the genre and there are enough moments for viewers to be entertained, gasped in disbelief as was promised by the scale of the production.
Nivin Pauly has realized the legendary character on the screen with the right kind of verve. He has shown the variations in expressions the character demands as the time passes by. The body language that of a ferocious highwayman was well captured. Sunny Wayne’s villainous Keshavakurup is terrific. Bobby Antony as Thangal makes the character believable some efficient acting. Priya Anand is quite likable in the limited role.
The music by Gopi Sunder is brilliant overall. The score he gave for the thumping action episodes and the entry of Laletta’s Pakki is sure to remain in the annals of Malayalam Cinema. Binod Pradhan, Nirav Shah, and Sudheer Palsane handled the cinematography with utmost care. The production values are something to cherish for in the times to come.
Aren’t there any negatives in the film? Yes. There are. The pace drops in the first half after the initial twenty minutes. But it sets up the adrenal pumping interval block. Mohanlal’s dance scenes are unnecessary to the film’s central point. But they entertain and keeps his fans satisfied. But the research done by the directorial and writers team can be seen all over the screen. The period atmosphere is authentically recreated.
On a whole, Kayamkulam Kochunniis a film to break all sorts of box office records what with Nivin Pauly’s brilliant acting, Mohanlal’s electrifying extended cameo, Rosshan Andrews’ top-notch directing, breathtaking action choreography. Despite the few and far between flaws, Kayamkulam Kochunni delivers what is promised. Go and be part of history making. Literally!
Review written update from PYCKER