Kho Kho, directed by Rahul Riji Nair, is a big surprise because it’s a big, broad commercial film. It’s very different from his previous films like Ottamuri Velicham or the superb Kalla Nottam which won the national award for best Malayalam film this year. Kho Kho is essentially a sports drama about an underdog. And it’s kind of surprising that Rahul Riji Nair felt tempted to go to this zone when his other films were understated and delicate—almost like indie films.
Maria Francis (Rajisha Vijayan) is a physical education teacher who ends up in a school for the underprivileged. It’s far away from where she lives and she’s doing this for financial reasons. Naturally, we figure that there’s going to be a great team that’s going to be created by her and that she’s going to face a bit of opposition. How is Kho Kho different?
The difference comes from the very delicate touches. The film is very broad in its arc like most sports dramas, because it’s basically the same thing. But the creative touches are beautiful. Like how Maria interacts with her father or her husband who is kept away for long enough before returning—we feel that even though we never realized that he was gone, we do after he returns.
There’s a big, melodramatic secret at the heart of the story. Though I didn’t buy into it entirely, it was done with class. What’s interesting is how Maria doesn’t shape the team by just delivering motivational speeches. She also tells them about the mistakes she made in her life.
Kho Kho has excellent performances by Rajisha Vijayan and Mamitha Baiju. The film is an example of how even a story that’s been told often can be made to feel reasonably fresh again.