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Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus and Kunjananthante Kada: Mammootty Double Bill that works, to an extent

Kunjananthante Kada-MammoottyHere’s wishing everyone a very Happy and Prosperous Onam.

Mammootty seems to be in a catch-22 situation these days. He is still searching for that elusive big hit and/or a film which will once again make his fans and critics appreciative of his presence and choice of script. After making a series of duds for most of 2011 and 2012 he ended the last year with the partially successful Bavuttiyude Namathil, a film which reminded us of his earlier films like Rappakal. In 2013 he seems to have gone on a signing spree as seen by the frequent releases he’s been having this year. The year began on a disastrous note with Kammath & Kammath, a loud commercial film which saw him unite with Dileep. This was a clear attempt at playing to the gallery, but this was an attempt which failed miserably on all counts. Mammootty redeemed himself to an extent later on with Lal Jose’s Immanuel. Playing a simple common man, this retelling of the classic David vs Goliath (Fahadh Faasil) turned out to be reasonably accepted during the Vishu season this year.

One of the most anticipated Eid/Ramzan releases this year was Ranjith’s Kadal Kadannu Oru Maathukutty. Considering that Mammootty and Ranjith had in the recent past also collaborated on wonderful films like Palerimanikyam- Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha and Pranchiyettan and the Saint, KKOM was also expected to be as good if not better than them. But the film ended up being nothing but a damp squib and being regarded nearly universally as Ranjith’s weakest film in recent times. Close on the heels of KKOM’s release Mammootty has gone on to have 2 more releases, Salim Ahamed’s Kunjananthante Kada and debut director Marthandan Gopalan Nair’s Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus. While the former made it to the theatres on August 30th, the latter was the first of the 5 Onam releases of the year to release as it hit theatres on September 12th.

So have these two films turned out good? Are audiences still eagerly awaiting a Mammootty movie now as the veteran actor continues to push himself relentlessly and work around the clock on multiple movies? Well I set out to answer these questions and many more when I watched Kunjananthante Kada (KK from hereon) and Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus (DSC from hereon). So here is an attempt to go through both these films in detail.

Kunjananthante Kada

Kunjananthante Kada- Mammootty in the shopWriter- director Salim Ahamed had made his debut with the commendable Adaminte Makan Abu (2011), one of the better Malayalam films in recent times. Considering that he had shown the inclination to handle a slightly off-beat subject with complete conviction and in the bargain extracted perhaps the career best performance of Salim Kumar, it was but natural to expect that KK would turn out to be a film far away from the ordinary. The film revolves around Kunjananthan (Mammootty) who is a simple minded guy, running a grocery store in a village in Kannur district. His marriage having fallen under disarray, it is now the shop around whom his life revolves. The owner of the shop (Siddique) tries hard to convince Kunjananthan to vacate the premises so that he can sell the store and pay off his debts. But since the shop is a reminder of his father’s legacy, Kunjananthan remains adamant that he will not vacate the place. But things take a turn for the worse when the Government announces a plan to build a road/highway and hence need to acquire the land falling under the marked area for development, which includes Kunjananthan’s shop as well. The rest of the movie is all about his struggle to save his shop.

With a run time of just around 2 hours, KK is a crisp enough tale but still appears a little too stretched at places. The film manages to blend the larger context of Kunjananthan’s fight to retain the store with that of his marriage that is crumbling. Though his was a love marriage now he and his wife Chithra (Nyla Usha) lead their lives in total discomfort as both of them hold totally polar views on everything. The film is also a social commentary of sorts as one gets to see how the advent of social media platforms like Facebook has brought a turnaround among people even in smaller towns and villages.  Also the importance of infrastructure development and its associated implications are also commented upon. The film has the benefit of some really good technicians and Salim Ahamed has made good use of all of them. Madhu Ambat brings out the night shots to life, the best being the one during a rainy night where Kunjananthan is sitting on the steps of a building in the bazaar and there is a streetlight flickering, a truly remarkable shot. Isaac Thomas Kottukapally’s BGM is totally of the old fashioned pathos variety, but strangely it works for the film’s mood and tempo. Resul Pookutty’s sound design accentuates it even further.

Kunjananthante Kada Poster NewIn terms of performances Salim Kumar, Siddique, Balachandra Menon etc are all effective in their brief roles. Former RJ turned actress Nyla Usha makes an impressive debut with this film and she is extremely impactful as Chithra who is openly bitter about her relationship with Kunjananthan. Mammootty as expected is the life of the movie, but then this is a role that is right up his alley and not something out of his comfort zone. An interesting premise KK surely does have but then eventually it falls short, a little short of being taken seriously. Adaminte Makan Abu makes you feel for the lead characters even today when you think of the film but with KK one just cannot say the same. Yes it’s reasonably absorbing to see Kunjananthan trying hard to retain his father’s legacy, but there is a still a sort of detachment that one feels with the proceedings. This is what makes the film fall a little short of expectations, though it’s definitely one of the better Mammootty films in the last 3 years.

Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus

DSCWritten by Benny P.Nayarambalam and directed by debutant Marthandan Gopalan Nair, DSC is a quickie in the true sense. The film went to floors in June this year and it has not just been completed in 3 months but also managed to release as well. To be honest the film’s trailer did not really impress me and added to this the fact that Mammootty’s previous 2 films, KKOM and KK didn’t exactly meet expectations also dampened my spirits to an extent. However among the 5 Onam releases DSC was the only one to make it to my city, Mumbai and hence by default the film had to be seen over the Onam weekend. Luckily the initial reports and observations about the film weren’t too bad and henced I braced myself for the film.

DSC revolves around Cleetus (Mammootty), a long haired goon. Taken in by his appearance and demeanor Cleetus is approached by a parish priest (Siddique) and Kunjachan (Suraj Venjaramoodu) to play the role of Jesus Christ in a fund raising light & sound show in their annual church festival. Even before the rehearsals kick-off the true self of Cleetus comes to the fore and everyone is shocked, troubled and disturbed. The priest remains optimistic of getting to turn Cleetus over a new leaf and deriving an optimum performance from him during the show. During the course of the rehearsals and while donning the role that is totally the opposite of what he is in real life, certain situations strangely occur in the life of Cleetus which affects him and the people around him. What happens from thereon is what the rest of the film is all about.

Daivathinte Swantham CleetusThe film starts on a slightly funny note as we are introduced to the characters, one by one. Mammootty as Cleetus hardly speaks in the initial couple of scenes and when he finally gets to mouth his dialogues, it’s a hoot. The star in Mammootty comes to the forefront as he gets to deliver some lines that would appeal to his fans and also indulge in some action scenes as well. However while the attempt to mirror his life with that of Jesus Christ and thus show the desired effect on his character sort of ends up being not so convincing. The film does have its moments especially in the 1st half but later on the momentum sort of loses steam and eventually gets a little predictable as well. Pradeep Nair’s camerawork does justice to the outdoor locations and Marthandan has managed to satisfy the fans of Mammootty as there is a balance attained between the superstar and actor in the veteran actor’s character of Cleetus in the film.

The star cast comprises of some really good actors including Siddique, Aju Varghese. P.Balachandran, Honey Rose, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Rejith Menon, Sanam Shetty, Thesni Khan etc and all of them are competent though they do not have anything much to do as the focus remains on Mammootty by and large. Eventually the film does turn out to be a lot better than the trailer but does that alone enable the film to qualify as a good attempt? Not really and though the film turns out to be worthwhile mainly thanks to Mammootty and some comic moments in the film, I wish the film was a lot more engaging especially in the 2nd half.

And even before Onam is over I realize that Mammootty will be back soon as his next film and his 6th release of the year, Balyakalasakhi is due for release in a few weeks from now. Forget about the quality of his films, for now I do hope that next year at least he looks at spacing out his films a lot better than what is currently happening.

By: Sethumadhavan
Posted: September 16, 2013, 9:00 pm


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