A long film with a short plot

Updated - March 29, 2016 06:09 pm IST

Published - August 30, 2015 12:00 am IST

A scene from Kunjiramayanam.

A scene from Kunjiramayanam.

Film: Kunjiramayanam

Direction: Basil Joseph

Starring: Vineeth Sreenivasan, Dhyan Sreenivasan, Mammukoya, Aju Varghese

If one were to analyse, or rate, movies just on the basis of the setting, ‘Kunjiramayanam’ would rank among the winners. Desam, the little village where the story happens, exists as a cocoon, shorn of time and place.

The only time we get to venture out of it is when the drunkards here take a trip to the beverages shop in the next village. The hairstyles and costumes of the villagers convey a feel of the 1960s. But, a key scene in the beginning involves a CD player and a popular porn film of the 1990s. Considering the years that pass on-screen after that scene, much of the film could be happening in the present times.

Much of the setting still remains very 60s. It looks like an effective conceit to keep the audience guessing all the time, on the ‘whens and wheres’. Or, did the makers not pay much attention to details?

Basil Joseph, one of the earliest to ride the short film wave, makes his directorial debut with ‘Kunjiramayanam’, written by Deepu Pradeep. The film tells the story of the petty rivalry between ‘Dubai’ Kunjiraman (Vineeth Sreenivasan) and his uncle ‘Well done’ Vasu (Mammukoya).

The whole thing hinges on one factor – who will get married first, Kunjiraman or Vasu’s daughter (who mysteriously remains invisible till the end)?

But in reducing the film to its story, we are bound to be left with nothing.

It is all about its situations laced with humour, some of which works and some others don’t, and its standout characters.

There is Vasu’s son Lalu (Dhyan Sreenivasan), the staple good-for-nothing fool, and his idol ‘cutpiece’ Kuttan (Aju Varghese), the village tailor, who both land together in soup after soup. Vasu, a gulf returnee, first regales and then bores the hell out of his listeners in the village square, with his gulf adventures.

Basil pays tributes to his two popular short films by two sly references, one of them as a bumper sticker. Sadly, the film’s narrative also seems more suited for a short film.

Each half of the film can be seen as two separate units, and works well in showing how superstitions take hold among the village folk. But one gets the feeling of the writer struggling to stretch the promising short film material at hand to feature film length. In the process, the final product lacks the desired punch.

Though the laugh-out-loud moments are few, there is some genuine humour at times. Music blends in well with the narrative, especially the ‘salsa’ song, which sounds better and even perfectly sensible in the context in which it comes in the film.

‘Kunjiramayanam’ promises much in the beginning, but delivers only a part of it by the end. One leaves the theatre with a feeling of, ‘if only there was something more to chew on’.

S.R. Praveen

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