Director: Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval
Cast: Nivin Pauly, Grace Antony, Vinay Forrt, Vincy Aloshious
Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham (KKK) is a Malayalam film directed by Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval (there’s a joke here, but I will come to it later), starring Nivin Pauly and Grace Antony. It is a comedy film but with a serious base. When I spoke to director Nelson Dilipkumar about Doctor, he talked about how he manages to combine a dual tone where serious issues are treated in a comic way. Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval is similar not in the whacky, commercial way of Nelson but with a dual tone in his films. You could see this in his previous film Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 also. There were a lot of laughs but also a lot of sadness around the plight of the character played by Suraj Venjaramoodu.
Let’s talk about the comedy in KKK first. It begins right at the beginning when the titles are presented against a curtain like the old stage skits where people would announce the names of the cast and crew. The man who is announcing the names, keeps making mistakes and the audience laughs along as that becomes a part of the joke. When he comes to the name of the director, he says Ratheesh Balakrishnan and someone reminds him of the other name there – Poduval. However, he says I won’t say the cast(e) name.
This is something we also see in Android Kunjappan Version 5.25. When the old man played by Suraj Venjaramoodu needs a caretaker, a woman is brought and he asks – “Is she a Poduval?” and his son says she is actually from a higher caste. Ratheesh takes these delicate subjects like caste and makes comedy out of them. That’s where the comparison to Nelson was coming from. He takes things that aren’t generally joked about and makes it socially funny. He says it in a way where we know what he is talking about and that it is wrong but the way he puts it across reminds us of a grandfather who would talk this way without realising they were politically incorrect. The bigger problem in Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 was also that there was a lonely old man and he needed care-taking. The film was about how sons should care for their fathers, modern day world, travelling away for work and the way things are in today’s society.
In KKK, another big issue is addressed and this time it is marital incompatibility. The protagonists of the film are Pavithran (Nivin Pauly) and Hari Priya (Grace Antony). Pavithran is a junior actor who takes himself very seriously. When you first see him, he’s teaching an acting class but what’s more impressive is that he is holding a book about Stella Adler, the American actress and a teaching icon. She is famously known to be Marlon Brando’s teacher and taught him the “method”. Similarly, Nivin Pauly wants to be a method actor. Haripriya is an ex-serial actress who, like many women, had to give up her career after marriage. This is one of the many issues that get treated in the comic-style discussed earlier. She is unhappy also because there is no romance in her marriage of over two years. She is complaining about this all the time.
What the director does is show both of these characters separately for a while. We see Nivin and Grace alternatively. Their scenes aren’t together but with a relative named Shiva, who is very funny. He is eating a lot and there are many jokes around this, especially one involving a paper cake, which is hilarious. As each of them details their side of the story, the screenplay comes to the scene where we see Nivin and Grace together. This scene involves a jhumki (an earring) and it also sets up for the screenplay here after.
Without any spoilers, I will say that a little after this scene, both of them along with the jhumki, that becomes a character of its own, travel to a hotel in Munnar where all hell breaks loose. The structure of the screenplay is rock solid. What adds to this is that every single person in that hotel is an eccentric weirdo. I love the character of the novelist who is thrilled when passages from his book are recited verbatim by one of the employees at the hotel. The actors are fantastic! Vinay Forrt is always good at what he does but here, he makes a line like “Don’t read English books” sound like the funniest line on earth. When I say all the actors are fantastic, I also include the jhumki and a phone that keeps ringing with a Christian hymn.
The whole film has an organic quality. Like the first scene I mentioned, where during the stage skit an unseen man kept announcing the names of the crew, the entire movie is like a farcical skit. Apart from the verbal comedy, there is also physical comedy. One fantastic scene is where there is a small, winding staircase and two men are right on top. There is an entire line behind them and Grace Antony is trying to move ahead but these two men won’t let her. The scene is staged so wonderfully that neither does it need much background music nor does Grace have to say anything but it’s atrociously funny.
Yet, even at two hours, the film feels inconsistent. Being funny is one of the hardest things and it’s difficult to expect every single gag to land. This is complicated by the fact that this isn’t just a bunch of jokes but also about marriage. There is a scene where Grace says that if her husband doesn’t stand up for her then she will fight her own fights. This combination of the marital issues and the eccentrics sometimes makes the tone uneven.
I felt the same with Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 too. Despite the fact that I like the movie a lot, it had an uneven tone. I think this is a result of being an ambitious filmmaker and trying to do something that is refreshing and new. That is why I am looking forward to what Ratheesh is going to make next. In KKK, there is a strong feminist ending and even that manages to be funny.
Like it’s said in the Marvel films, keep watching through the end credits as what is shown might be physical humour but also a commentary on the characters’ marriage.