‘Kaathal – The Core’ movie review: Mammootty steers a daring attempt that pays off

‘Kaathal’ beautifully uses a conventional family drama setting to tackle a subject that is still largely a taboo in the industry and the larger society; it is quite a triumph in that sense

November 23, 2023 09:02 pm | Updated 09:10 pm IST

Jyotika, Mammootty in ‘Kaathal-the Core’

Jyotika, Mammootty in ‘Kaathal-the Core’

Kaathal (Core) is perhaps quite the apt title for a film that peels apart the shell of a loveless marriage, revealing the reason at its core — the sexual orientation of one of the partners. 

In another sense, too, it is apt in how the film’s subject, and its treatment, would shake to the core a considerable section of the society who are yet to open up their minds to the possibility of people having different sexual orientations.

Yet, Jeo Baby’s film is not pointing a finger or directing a haranguing speech at them. Rather, it tells them that they are products of their time, as one of the key characters in the film is, and that it is never too late to open up the mind just a little bit more and let more colours enter their lives. 

‘Tells them’ might be a wrong way to put it, for the film hardly ever tells anything, except in some clunky courtroom exchanges. It chooses to put us amid these characters as they all come to terms with a set of revelations that is about to change the course of their entire lives. 

Mathew Devassy (Mammootty), a much respected man in a village with a close-knit community, is set to contest in the local body elections as an independent candidate of the Left party. Around the same time, Omana (Jyotika), who has been married to him for the last twenty years, files for divorce, citing the denial of her physical needs due to his homosexual orientation. 

‘Kaathal – The Core’ (Malayalam)
Director: Jeo Baby
Cast Mammootty, Jyotika, Sudhi Kozhikode
Runtime: 116 minutes
Storyline: Mathew Devassy is about to contest in the local body elections when his wife Omana files for divorce, citing his sexual orientation as a reason

Quite some irony is at play in Kaathal for factors that are exterior to the film. Here is a star, a good part of whose mass popularity is attributed to portraying characters projecting hyper-masculinity, playing a homosexual character in a film industry where such characters still hardly get any representation, except as caricatures or criminals. The import of the film lies also in this broader context, for the sheer power it lends to efforts towards sensitising the larger society.

But, at the same time, to reduce it to a mere vehicle of social messaging would be to close our eyes to the emotionally moving drama which lies at its core. Screenwriters Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria serve a no-frills narrative, which never deviates from the conflict at its centre, with every other character interaction in the film revolving around it. 

While the film gets right the treatment of a loveless marriage, which is still filled with concern and care for each other, it somewhat falters in its treatment of the homosexual relationship. One gets to see and even hear everything from Mathew’s perspective, while his alleged lover Thankan (Sudhi Kozhikode) is reduced to a silent onlooker, with the myriad emotions on his face being the only clue about what goes on his mind or the kind of equation he shares with Mathew. These silences on the part of the writers remind one of the much more raw, forthright portrayal of a homosexual relationship in Moothon

Despite these quibbles, one cannot overstate the importance of what Kaathal beautifully achieves by using a conventional family drama setting to tackle a subject which is still largely a taboo in the industry and the larger society. It is quite a triumph in that sense.

Kaathal – The Core in currently in theatres

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