Cast: Asif Ali, Siddique, Vineeth Sreenivasan
Mathukutty's Kunjeldho takes close to forty minutes to start narrating anything resembling a plot. Until then, you get a barrage of visuals and music that's meant to take you back to school/college if you existed during the first half of the 2000s. You get the last day of school with its class photos, autograph books, scribbled uniforms, crush confessions and songs from films like Boys. You also see the nervous first day of college where you walk into bigger buildings with bigger people and far more complex problems. Both significant memories representing the best days of our life.
But Kunjeldho lingers on these moments like it's the first ever film to feature these sights. Sitting through these painfully shot montages that must have recreated the director's teenage years, you force yourself to connect to them because you can see the effort that has gone in. But Malayalam cinema, off-late, has featured so many films milking the nostalgia cow that you've become desensitised to the feeling. It's almost like nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Which means that you're really hoping the plot kicks in soon enough to take the film beyond these narrow corridors. But the film's thin plot-line is stretched so far that you just want to go back to the good old days of college and school. The idea itself isn't particularly new, taking us back to films like Juno and the more recent Sara's (one small part is straight out of Swayamavaram), but it's how little they do to develop it that makes the film tiring.
You can sense this in the way the film relies strongly on montages because there's not much of an event to keep you engaged between the two major plot points. It's not just that. Even the comedic bits that employ a lot of under-the-breath mumbling, cannot really create the impact of films like Thattathin Marayathu and Premam, both films Kunjeldho looks upto like college super seniors.
That's partly because the film doesn't consider that fact that we have had ten years of similar films releasing every other semester. The film doesn't even try to double-guess the already tired viewer, nor does it have ideas to subvert the themes used obsessively in the Vineeth Sreenivasan cinematic universe. Even the actors, including the comedic sidekicks, feel like A3-size Xerox copies of supporting roles in the aforementioned films. You feel this repetition even in Shaan Rahman's overuse of cheeky background scores meant to refer pop-cultural markers of the period or the way he drums up a character's name in the score itself.
All that you're left with then is the niceness of the characters. Siddique plays another Siddique character and Asif Ali gets to play another one of his manchildren with the same affected half-whine. The beats remain the same and the ending takes you to exactly the place you think it would. It's a film that may have worked a few years ago, back when this treatment felt fresh.