Everyone remembers Roshan Andrews’ debut film Udayananu Thaaram  for its Sreenivasan-Mohanlal combination and its story of a struggling assistant director told in a satirical format with self-deprecating humour. What it unintentionally did was teach the fourteen-year-old me that movies are more than just the stars whom I saw on the screen. Shaji Kailas and Ranjith, the writer-director duo behind blockbusters like Aaram Thampuran and Narasimham, won my heart when my dear Lalettan twirled his moustache in their films.
Ranjith started off as a writer, becoming one of the most sought-after script writers in Malayalam with blockbusters like Aaram Thampuran and Narasimham and then making his directorial debut with Raavanaprabhu. I was proud of the fact that he hailed from my hometown as well and I was always excited whenever he announced a new film, be it as a writer or as a director.
When Ranjith announced Kaiyoppu starring Mammootty, I wasn’t the fourteen-year-old kid anymore and heroism had much better definitions in my mind than the moustache-twirling, mundu-clad protagonist. Mass hero films weren’t doing well at that time either. Little did I know that even fourteen years after its release, I would be still talking about it.
Kaiyoppu, released in 2007, wasn’t a mainstream film. It has a runtime of 90-odd minutes and I still remember watching it in an almost empty cinema hall at the Kairali Sree Theatre, Kozhikode. While I don’t exactly recollect my reactions when I watched it in the theatre, the movie started making better sense when I revisited it often much later in my mid-twenties. I still don’t know exactly if it’s the so-called maturity that comes with age or my passion for reading, which was sort of a late-bloomed affair, that made me appreciate this movie better.
Kaiyoppu tells us the story of Balachandran, a voracious reader and struggling writer who is suffering from writer’s block. Mammootty’s portrayal of Balachandran is subtle and warm. We get to meet the people in his life, the fellow inmates at the lodge where he is living, the struggling publisher Shivadasan (portrayed by Mukesh) who becomes a friend later and, of course, Padma, his ex-girlfriend from his college days, played by Khushboo. While Balachandran lives in Kochi, there is a parallel plot of a young Muslim girl from Calicut who has become like a sister for Balachandran. He comes to know about this girl and her illness through a newspaper report and later decides to help her financially for her surgery by selling his ancestral property.
More than the story or what happens in his life, it is Balachandran the character who has been my solace during my lonely weekends in Mumbai. He is not someone who can deliver those single-shot monologues to inspire you to do the undoable or someone with an aura around him who can inspire and inject positivity into our lives with a smile or a word. Instead, Balachandran is me, or anyone around me: any introverted, lonely person who finds solace in words and stories. Every time I come across a lonely middle-aged man at a bookstore or a café, I imagine him as Balachandran. It is not very difficult to find a Balachandran around us. While my days were spent staring at spreadsheets and slides, at night, Balachandran, Padma and his books told me that I’m not alone in this and they indeed gave me good company while reading, pondering and scribbling.
While the movie doesn’t have a happy ending, my love for the film and this character has made me bring up multiple scenarios in my imagination about various alternate storylines. What if Balachandran and Padma had met eventually at Calicut? Or what if he gets his novel published and what if the novel goes on to become a sensational one, winning him accolades and establishing him in Malayalam literature? All these what-if scenarios in my head have inspired me to think of writing a fanfiction about my favourite Balachandran, in the latest of which I imagined myself meeting Balachandran, a delegate at the Kerala Literature Festival along with Padma.
Kaiyoppu and Balachandran are very personal to me. In fact, I have an instant fondness for every single person who express their liking for this film and character. When it comes to hope and inspiration, Balachandran and Kaiyoppu remain close to my heart.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.