Kaapa Review: This Gangster Drama Entertains With Swagger, But Not So Much With Substance

It might be a complete Prithviraj Sukumaran show, but Dileesh Pothan and Jagadish Kumar own the film’s gritty world
Kaapa Review: This Gangster Drama Entertains With Swagger, But Not So Much With Substance

We are introduced to the world of Kaapa through Binu Thrivikraman (Anna Ben) and Anand (Asif Ali). When Anand learns that Binu’s name is found on the fugitives list based on Kerala Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act (KAAPA), he tries his best to remove his naive wife’s name with the help of a police officer.  

But in the process, he learns about Binu’s past, her brother’s murder, the gangs of Trivandrum, and the ruling king Kotta Madhu (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and his wife Prameela (Aparna Balamurali). Caught in the world of gangsters, Anand gives the viewers a third-person's perspective of the gritty world, as he struggles to navigate it. However, this exciting premise acts as a ramped-up introduction to Madhu and takes backstage as the film progresses. 

GR Indugopan, who has based the film on his story Shanghumukhi, creates a world of revenge between two gangs — of Kotta Madhu and the army of Dileesh Pothan’s Latheef. But like in Shaji Kailas and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s previous collaboration Kaduva, there is a larger focus on the fight sequences and how.

From the first fight of Madhu, the swagger of slo-mo and close-up shots amplify the hits. Jomon T. John's camera makes these sequences teem with aesthetics. For instance, when a young Madhu fights off a gang in a hotel — the food splatters all over, and the plates break — Jomon freezes a close-up of Prithviraj after he punches a rowdy, and the tea droplets mimic fire flames. However redundant and repetitive some fight scenes are, they are entertaining to watch. 

Having said that, there are certain gory visuals you should brace yourselves to witness. For those who have watched the trailer, you would have seen a man without a head. And that’s a sample of the bloodshed that is to come in the film. For context, the beheaded man in the trailer was once the reigning gangster of Trivandrum, before his head was blasted into pieces. 

In a world of gangsters, Anand is always the most clueless, not knowing whom to approach and whose side to take. And like Anand, Kaapa finds itself losing focus at times. On the surface, Prithviraj’s Kotta Madhu is a grey character. He is a gang leader who has reached the place by multiple murders and using the innocent. But the film mostly worships him, and the main story gradually becomes that of Madhu than Trivandram’s intriguing gangster world. He is shown as the flawed and vulnerable gangster that he is. And you also find yourself empathising with Madhu, even if Latheef and gang have a well-balanced backstory backing their thirst for revenge. 

Latheef tries to murder Madhu many times, but as you can guess, Madhu manages to win even without a small scratch. Come to think of it, there is not even a real gang that works against Madhu. So, you do not feel a real threat to his life, and this is when the film becomes predictable. 

While the film could have been so much more, what balances out its flaws are the emotions driving the characters. We do not see much of their lives apart from them killing many unnamed rowdies and spewing punch dialogues. But the little emotions and slight vulnerabilities they show help us relate to the characters. It is a complete Prithviraj Sukumaran show, but Dileesh Pothan as Latheef and Jagadish Kumar as Jabbar Ikka (Madhu’s right hand) own this world. From supporting his wife’s choice for pregnancy to going to extreme lengths to save her, Asif Ali gets to play one of the better etched characters in the film.

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