Director: Jeo Baby
Cast: Tovino Thomas, India Jarvis, Basil Joseph
Of the three big Onam premieres scheduled for this season, Tovino Thomas-starrer Kilometres And Kilometres brought with it an aspect of nostalgia we weren’t really looking for. For a generation that has moved on to Netflix, Disney Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, Kilometres And Kilometres demanded that you watch the movie on TV, that too on Asianet, taking us back to those old festival release days when the big movie would start playing in the afternoon, only for it to end minutes before midnight. In line with the same tradition, Kilometres And Kilometres doubled in length as it got interspersed with advertisements that ranged from two-in-one mixies, a Mohanlal Onam special and something about sunflower oil.
But what if I tell you that the real speed breaker in this road movie is its screenplay and NOT these giant ad breaks? And that’s sad because it’s not a film with any sort of starting trouble. Born at the very same moment his father buys his new Bullet, Josemon (Tovino) grows up taking care of his late father’s motorcycle like it’s his twin. He holds the bike close to him even when his family moves from one financial crisis to another. Yet when it reaches a point where he has to get separated from it, an American visitor named Cathy (India Jarvis) comes to his small town with loads of money and some much needed hope.
She has just one demand. She needs a ‘driver’ to take her around the country, her last leg of a world tour, and needs a person who can manage that with a bit of English. But the issue is that the film never really shifts gears from that plot point and what we get is a series of long, done-to-death road movie and romcom cliches that offer nothing new, especially once the road trip begins.
A lot of that has to do with the two central characters who take up a majority of the screen-space. With few other characters and nothing but the road to add drama, the screenplay rests almost entirely on the love-hate chemistry between its lead actors. We see Tovino try very hard as he searches for newer ways of speaking in broken English, with dozens of jokes relying solely on the frustration arising from his language skills. As for India Jarvis, she fills the screen with a certain warmth and cheer, but nothing more, and that’s also because of how underwritten her character is. How can you make a meaningful movie about the oddities of this couple or the idea of understanding an outsider when the American is presented as a Coco Cola-drinking KFC-eating loner who is more afraid of diarrhoea than of dacoits.
Their conflict arises from their divergent personal philosophies, with Cathy’s strong individualistic values working in sharp contrast to Josemon’s, for he believes relationships are more important than any one person. As they travel, in true genre fashion, they come across people and places that get them to rethink their positions. Or, as the film suggests using a nice visual, it’s the journey of a man who starts off reading Americayude Kroorakrithyangal (America’s Cruelties), only to pick up a copy of Spoken English as time goes.
A lot of what keeps a road trip interesting are the characters and the difficult situations the travellers have to endure. But here, apart from a likeable supporting character played by Sidharth Siva, we get nothing to keep moving forward. One feels the hangover of films such as Kilukkam and Thenmavin Kombathu before finally realising that the film’s soul comes from that old Pankaj Udhas music video featuring Sameera Reddy and that Australian man.
Even their romance is easier to see more than feel given how little we learn about Cathy. The contradictions in the screenplay pose another roadblock, with the film switching between scenes showcasing ‘the beauty of India and its people’ to ‘India, the land of thieves, corruption and two hour ad breaks on TV…’
Despite its overall niceness and likeability, this is a long, meandering film that takes you to Boredom Junction before it gets you to its destination. But, in case you’re tired of waiting for something to really happen, let me interest you in a two-in-one mixie?