‘Kadhikan’ movie review: Jayaraj’s film on Kathaprasangam is a good effort that falters in certain parts

Despite noble intentions to shed light on a dying art form, the Jayaraj film misses the mark when it comes to having an intriguing plot

Updated - December 08, 2023 06:21 pm IST

Published - December 08, 2023 05:49 pm IST

Mukesh in a still in ‘Kadhikan’

Mukesh in a still in ‘Kadhikan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The story of a storyteller! That is what Jayaraj’s Kadhikan is all about. Starring Mukesh in the lead role as Chandrasenan, a star Kathaprasangam artiste who has fallen into obscurity, the movie is in part a homage to the art form that has vanished from popular stages. Once a staple of temple festivals and celebrations, Kathaprasangam, a blend of music, song, mime, acting and storytelling, started disappearing from stages as ganamelas and mimicry shows began to gain popularity.

Chandrasenan reminds viewers that once upon a time, world literature, masterpieces from India and abroad, became familiar to listeners all over Kerala, thanks to the art of Kathaprasangam. Mukesh lives the role and some evocative scenes of Chandrasenan’s performances of yore throw light on the reach and popularity of the art form and the performer. Mukesh’s gestures, movements and use of colloquial language to strike a chord with the listeners are spot on.

Written and directed by Jayaraj, the filmmaker and Manoj Govind have also produced the film. Though Kadhikan has its moments, the narrative is marred by a script that cannot hold all the elements in the movie. So, there is this teenager Mithun (Krishnanand Gopu) from a juvenile home in Kollam who is traumatised by his past. Bits and pieces of his childhood in Kolkata’s red-light area are suddenly thrust upon the viewer. Then there is a sensitive superintendent of the home (Unni Mukundan).

Kadhikan (Malayalam)
Director: Jayaraj
Cast: Mukesh, Unni Mukundan, Krishnanand
Storyline: A superintendent moves mountains to make a 17-year-old boy living in a Juvenile home master an art form through a legendary performer
Runtime: 95 minutes

Weaving all the threads into a cohesive story seems to have been a difficult task for the director. Unni Mukundan passes muster as the kind-hearted superintendent who persuades Chandrasenan to teach Mithun a Kathaprasangam piece. Debutant Krishnanand looks unsure in some places but he can hold his own in certain difficult emotional sequences.

Chandrasenan tells Mithun a little about the history of the art form and its great performers while teaching the youngster Shakespeare’s Othello for a competition. How Mukesh’s Chandrasenan instils self-confidence in Mithun and helps him make peace with his troubled past is part of the narrative.

However laudable the aim of the film, a work like this has to look plausible and that is where Kadhikan falters. The interactions between Mithun and Chandrasenan look a little wooden in some scenes. Salil Choudhary’s son Sanjay Choudhary has composed the music and Antara Choudhary has sung a song in Bengali for the film. The Malayalam lyrics have been written by Sharatchandra Varma. On the whole, the film is a good effort that would have been better with some better writing and editing.

Kadhikan is currently playing in theatres.

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