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Kotthu

Kotthu Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : / 5

Kotthu Movie Review : Narrative on political killings

Synopsis: Shanu and Sumesh from Kannur are staunch party workers who would blindly obey their godfather Sakhavu Sadhanandan’s instructions. What happens when Shanu gets entangled in a moral dilema after being forced to commit a revenge murder to keep the party’s honour?

Review: Like in the ‘banality of evil’ thesis coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt, ‘Evil acts are not necessarily performed by the evil’. Instead, it can be mere obeying of orders of superiors.

The Sibi Malayil directorial tells the story of a bunch of people living in Kannur who have normalised the ‘eye for an eye’ principle in the name of political parties. They aren’t evil but conditioned to keep up the honour of ideologies. When the martyrs are reduced to numbers, what is left behind are forgotten human grievances, poverty, incomplete families and the tragedies around it.

Shanu and Sumesh are childhood friends who grew up together as party workers under the guidance of Sakhavu Sadhanandan. He is their godfather whose instructions will be obeyed without second thought. After the murder of party worker MA Nagendran, the party decides to commit a revenge killing in order save its honour. Sadhanandan assigns Shanu, Sumesh and two of their close friends. Post incident, their lives take an unexpected turn where they become preys in the game of equivalence. Are they free to think beyond the orders? Are they allowed to be morally conscious about their deed and take up the responsibility?

‘For which political movement did you kill that man?’ asks Shanu’s wife Hissana while she confronts her husband when she realises that she is not just married to a catering worker but a political gunda. Scriptwriter Hemanth Kumar realistically protrays the life beyond the fear that the party has created by instilling arrogance and aggression in the minds of youngsters in order to build a monopoly. He puts through the fact that those who create fear can also succumb to fear. It speaks through different viewpoints – the wives, the mothers, the fathers, the party workers and the children. However, one will leave the theatre with an incompleteness as there are many imperfectly woven ends. It seems some of the characters are left without meeting justice. Well, time for a question – how much can you criticise a system while being in the system?

Kothu is not one of the best directorials of veteran filmmaker Sibi Malayil who has gifted many beautiful films for Indian cinema from Mutharamkunnu PO to Devadhootan. The film has a lot of loose ends with background score and songs disturbing the pace of the film. Cinematographer Prashanth Raveendran has captured the frames beautifully and Vivek Harshan has decently stitched it into a watchable movie with enough lags.

Asif Ali as Shanu reminds of his characters in Kettiyolanente Malakha and Ellam Sheriyakum. There is no Shanu, but just the refined actor Asif Ali who at times is a cliche. The film is balanced by the performances of Roshan Mathews, Nikhila Vimal, Seelakshmi and Vijilesh. Roshan as Sumesh is a treat to watch. With his innocent smile and impulsive anger, he makes Sumesh evergreen. Ranjith who plays Sakhav Sadhanandan reminds one of the Nazi military officer Adolf Eichmann who played an integral role in the Holocaust, pictured by Ardent in her 1963 book. However, the character’s inconsistent Kannur dialect, if not conscious, affected its continuity and impact.

As per the statistics, between 2016 and 2021, Kerala witnessed 32 political killings. Rumours are abuzz that many other revenge killings were not recognised by the government as political murders.

Kothu is a political drama different from what Malayalam cinema has seen so far as it shows the other side of the cold blooded murders happening in Kerala in the name of politics where fascism wins over ethics and violence against ordinary and minority becomes banal.

A movie for the Malayalis to ruminate on.

– Anjana George

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