Kammatipadam: Sparkling wine in a new bottle

Film: Kammatipadam

Director: Rajeev Ravi

Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Vinayakan, Manikandan

Your buildings have almost touched the sky, you are forever marching forward, but have you cared to look down, or look back, to see whom you trampled upon and those whom you dispossessed? Rajeev Ravi seems to be raising this question in Kammatipadam, his third outing, which forces you at times to think of his first two films too, for the remarkable humanism with which he has treated those whom mainstream cinema dismisses or demonises as ‘goons’. Kammatipadam can be read in myriad ways – as a revenge story, as the history of evolution of a city, as a chronicle of the disintegrating relationships of a group of friends who involve in criminality for survival or even as an ode to those dispossessed in the march towards development.

A distress call from old friend Ganga (Vinayakan) brings Krishnan (Dulquer Salman), working for diamond merchants in Mumbai, back to Kerala, to Kammatipadam. Through his search for Ganga, with the narrative switching between three time periods, we are told the story of the ‘real estate’ transformation of modern day Kochi.

Rajeev Ravi’s protagonists Rasool and Steve Lopez get caught up in violence as adults, by accident. But Krishnan has grown up with blood all around him. We see him as a kid, along with the young Ganga, witnessing a twin murder in broad daylight without batting an eyelid.

They end up where they are destined to be. Under the tutelage of Balan (Manikandan), their gang grows from black ticket sales to illicit liquor business to being henchmen.

We see the quiet irreversible transformation of the city’s landscape. It is conveyed casually, but effectively, in Krishnan’s bike through a maze of new compound walls on his return to Kammatipadam, which once was a wide open field. The gang becomes tools in this transformation, when land sharks use them against their own brethren.

Hope appears only fleetingly, only to disappear into the never-ending spiral of violence and vengeance. Rajeev Ravi has thrown in minimal popular cinema compromises too.

The casting takes the cake. Manikandan blazes the screen on his debut while Vinayakan puts in his best performance yet. His Ganga really is the central element of the film. Dulquer deserves applause for a restrained performance. At a time when popular Malayalam cinema is extolling the virtues of hard work as the sure shot way to the promised land, Rajeev Ravi speaks of cities built on top of the blood and tears of the nameless masses, who are where they are not because of lack of hard work. His oeuvre continues to record those contemporary everyday histories which are otherwise airbrushed out from our cinema.

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Printable version | Nov 20, 2020 6:10:52 AM |

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