‘Paka’ movie review: A perceptive study of an endless revenge cycle

Through effective text and technical prowess, debutant Nithin Lukose comes across as a filmmaker who is in complete control of the medium

July 07, 2022 12:27 pm | Updated 06:23 pm IST

A still from the movie

A still from the movie | Photo Credit: SONY LIV/YOUTUBE

In one of the most remarkable scenes from Paka, a bed-ridden grandmother, whose face we never get to see, asks her grandson to bring out an old trunk from under her bed. One would half expect her to ask him to recite a few lines from the Bible which comes to view as soon as he opens it. But then, going with the violent landscape that this film is set in, she asks him to take out an old dagger, wrapped in a red cloth.

Director: Nithin Lukose
Cast: Vinitha Koshy, Basil Poulose, Nithin George
Runtime: 101 minutes
Storyline: A couple from two rival families choose love and strive to end a never-ending cycle of revenge

Unlike the regular heart-warming grandma tales, the tales she recites are soaked in blood from their own family tree and are ones that exhort the young ones to seek revenge. This unseen face becomes the spirit of Paka, a perceptive study of the never-ending cycle of revenge that pervades a village in Wayanad, stretching over generations. This village in Nithin Lukose's debut film, which premiered at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival, does not exist in a vacuum or in an imaginary land. It is peopled by the heirs of those who had migrated to the higher ranges of Malabar from Central Kerala. Their initial battles against the punishing landscape remain as a historical background of the village.

On the surface, it is a familiar story that has been told in numerous ways on screen over the years. Johny (Basil Paulose) and Anna (Vinitha Koshy), from two families with a history of enmity, fall in love with each other and are about to get married. However, Nithin Lukose does not take the conventional path with this familiar material. He uses it as a portal to take us into this world of revenge. Even the youngest members of the families, like Paachi (Athul John), are not immune to it. All of them are just waiting to get caught into this vortex from which there is no escape.

Although we enter their world when a body is being fished out of the river—which is the dumping place for all dead bodies—there is relative peace between the families. But, the couple's plans to get married goes haywire when Johny's uncle Kocheppu (Jose Kizhakkan) returns home after serving his long sentence for murdering someone from Anna's family. Though Kocheppu is repentant, the other side is still revengeful. One could imagine the young Kocheppu committing a murder, goaded by stories injected by a revenge-filled elder relative.

Nithin Lukose’s experience as a sound designer comes through in his use of sparse, but effective, background score and in the many seemingly random sound clips that play in the background. For instance, there is a repeating commentary from WWE wrestling matches played, but unlike the mock fights in those tournaments, everything is raw and real here. He does not celebrate the blood-letting, but rather takes a detached view of the banality and cyclical nature of the events, although at times one does wish for an escape from that cycle, just like the two central characters.

In Paka, one gets to see a debutant director who is in control of the medium and is sure of what he wants to get out of it.

‘Paka’ is currently streaming on SonyLIV

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