Film: Kalimannu (Malayalam)

Director: Blessy

Cast: Shwetha Menon, Biju Menon, Suhasini

This is director Blessy’s la-la land! Here, the whole concept of womanhood centres on the woman’s right to deliver a baby. Motherhood is nothing more than 10 months of pregnancy and associated labour pangs.

The characters who people it are thoroughly convinced that thrusting visuals of delivery before the society is a sure way to deter people from committing crimes against women. And the woman who daringly delivers her baby through a live telecast is the ultimate champion of women’s rights.

Now, cut to reality! The film Kalimannu is, at best, a myopic take on women’s issues and at worst, crass commercialisation of one of life’s most beautiful experiences. That said, there is nothing objectionable about the delivery scenes that have created much uproar. It is everything else in the film that should anger you. That so much controversy was raked up for a scene lasting just about a minute is shameful, but that is topic for another article, another discussion.

Meera (Shwetha Menon) is an ‘item’ dancer in Bollywood, a convenient excuse for three item dances in the first-half. As her first film as heroine is set for release, her husband Shyam (Biju Menon) meets with an accident and is declared brain dead.

Meera wants to have his child through artificial insemination and thus begins her crusade against the big bad world of legal complications and prying media persons.

But the travails of the audience begin much before, at the beginning of the film, when they are presented a half-baked story (scripted by the director himself) with high airs.

The irony of characters mouthing concerns about women being viewed as commodities even as the lens zooms in on oodles of cleavage and much hip-shaking cannot be missed. All we see of the item dancer’s much-awaited ‘real’ woman role in a film is also some more hip-shaking.

For all the loud talk on the sanctity of motherhood, there is the parallel explicit advertisement of a fertility clinic and a stem cell bank.

It is also shocking that an ace director would forget that a subtext (Subhadra-Abhimanyu relationship) is often implied, and not emphasised through dialogues. What the film fails to achieve through visuals and performances, it seeks to make up through dialogue, and ends up being just a tortuous sermon.

With all that marketing on the film being the bond between the unborn child and the mother, one wonders what prevented the director from going ahead and portraying just that. In a film touted as a “tribute to motherhood”, pretensions and artifices seem not just out of place, but sacrilegious.

The only highlights of the movie are the songs ‘Laalee’ and ‘Shalabhamayi’ penned by O.N.V. Kurup and composed by M. Jayachandran. Shwetha Menon as the protagonist Meera, delivers a beautiful baby, but sadly, not a convincing performance. The characters of Biju Menon and Suhasini are largely left unexplored.

Nevertheless, Blessy has definitely succeeded on one count — in silencing the film’s critics. All those moralists who raised hell before the release must be now busy burying their heads in shame for aiding the film’s undeserved media attention. The director also uses the controversies the film generated as material to pad up the second half.

With a subject that was stretched beyond its one-hour worth of content, it is the audience who writhe in pain over Blessy’s ‘labour’ of love. Kalimannu is that point of realisation for the Malayali audience that the director of some of the most poetic films in recent times (Kazcha, Thanmathra, Brahmaram, and Pranayam) has, but, feet of clay.

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