Kanakam Kamini Kalaham review: Nivin Pauly-Grace Antony’s comedy goes horribly wrong
Most of the actors, Grace Antony in particular, and Nivin Pauly too, put in excellent performances, but that doesn’t save the film.
It is perhaps not an easy thing to do, setting a film within a hotel and trying to make every movement, every action and every line spoken funny. When Kanakam Kamini Kalaham starts on a comfortably light note, where you hope your head won’t spin and you can sit back and have a few laughs, it seemed just the right thing to unravel with, amid all the graveness lurking around. Unfortunately, the plotters of this crazy setting get entrapped within their idea, going in circles, turning repetitive and boring, and at times entirely problematic. Most of the actors, Grace Antony in particular, and Nivin Pauly too, put in excellent performances, but that doesn’t save the film. It is a bit of a disappointment coming from Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, the maker of the adorable Android Kunjappan Version 5.25.
Straight off, in comforting sync sound, you are introduced to the marriage of Haripriya (Grace) and Pavithran (Nivin) through a series of conversations they have with Sivakumar (Sudheesh), a mutual friend trying to settle their marital differences. Sudheesh does a wonderful act here, sipping and slurping all that’s served before him, as he listens to the complaints about an irresponsible husband and a not-understanding-enough wife. You need to take a moment here to notice the actor’s transition from playing the eternal young man for decades to becoming this middle-aged peace-broker. And he does it so smoothly. The humour you were looking forward to comes in these early moments in the film, but they are not a preview of what’s to come.
Pavithran is a junior artiste in movies, teaching acting in a hall on top of a little restaurant (which came as part of Haripriya’s dowry, you are later told). Haripriya was a television serial actor who had stopped acting after marriage. Both of them are unhappy with the turns their lives took. They use each other’s professions to throw insults. “You are a serial actor” or “you are a junior artiste” to belittle each other. Haripriya is also upset that Pavi took her gold earrings and pawned them. To settle things, Sivakumar suggests a trip somewhere.
Pavithran makes peace with her by buying gold-plated jewellery to pass off as gold. She cheers up immediately, falling headlong into the oldest stereotype in popular culture: women are obsessed with gold, nothing else matters. This is followed by a trip to a hotel in Munnar, where the rest of the movie takes place. Characters roll out from all corners of the hotel — a stressed out manager played entertainingly by Vinay Forrt, a receptionist who loses her cool, staff members with various issues, a drunkard continuously slipping between the bar and the lobby (Jaffer Idukki), and an aging writer (Joy Mathew), among others.
Everything goes haywire when Haripriya’s earrings are lost in the hotel. Accusations are endlessly thrown back and forth in poor attempts of evoking humour from weird situations and characters. You could appreciate the attempts if they had not gone so horribly wrong.
The film takes the first wrong turn when it decides to make an attempt at social satire. It begins with one of the room boys, Manaf Khan (a wonderful Rajesh Abraham), complaining that every time something wrong happens, fingers are pointed at him because he is a ‘minority’. Manaf is presented as a shady character, installing cameras in bathrooms, being lecherous towards women. He has already married twice. On the other hand the character is shown to be well-read. But it is presented as a joke when he claims discrimination against his religion every time, sending out a really wrong message that Muslims ‘use’ it as defence whenever anything goes wrong.
It only goes more wrong from this point. What was most problematic was an assault scene made to look like a joke. As disturbing as it is, it gets worse by the woman’s reaction to what is supposed to be a “humorous” confession.
That’s sort of the nail on the coffin, for you are already counting seconds as the film that had begun to be promising has suddenly become so dragging and trapped in loops. Literally. Joby the manager (Vinay) attends a million calls from his demanding girlfriend while he settles the many things going wrong at the hotel and you ache to grab the phone and switch it off. Jaffer Idukki’s drunk character becomes so irritatingly meddlesome and you wonder why no one was throwing him out. Pavithran and Haripriya are lost in all the mayhem, becoming their old fighting selves. The only solace is that Haripriya’s character brushes off her husband’s attempts to shush her and speaks out her mind every time. Grace is just remarkable as the short-tempered, wronged woman. Nivin as the insecure and irresponsible partner is in comfortable settings, a typecast he might fall into.
By about the middle of the movie, all the promise of a carefree entertainer fades away. And you are reminded of the 80s Priyadarshan comedies, which regardless of its senseless characterisations and inevitable chaos in the end, remain entertaining decades later. It is not the chaos in KKK or the many characters that ruin it, but the mindless attempts at a social satire.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.