Director: Abhilash S
Cast: Jaiden Philip, Sreedarsh, Sanjay Sunil
The second Malayalam film to release directly on Mainstream TV after Vipin Atlee’s existential Musical Chair is the far less ambitious children’s film Konnappookkalum Mampazhavum, directed by Abhilash S. Seen through the eyes of a group of 12-year-olds, the film opens on the last day of school before the start of summer vacations. The group has big plans for the two-month vacation, which includes playing in the upcoming cricket tournament, taking part in the festivities of the local temple and celebrating Vishu.
Populated with child actors trying to behave like adults, there’s always a distance between the viewer and the children as we try to get immersed in the big problems that make up their little lives. “How do we make money to buy a cricket bat?” is one of them. “What’s the name of the girl who has just come from Bombay?” is another. And, most importantly, “How do we get out of the summer classes our parents are forcing us to attend?”
But the main narrative tool of the film hardly searches for answers to these questions. Like the title suggests, Konnappookkalum Mampazhavum is essentially a desperate attempt to evoke deep-rooted nostalgia… a feeling that’s high in demand at the moment. So, we get extended but empty scenes of these boys breaking raw mangoes and closeups of the salt and chilli powder they sprinkle over it. We get another scene where two boys are merely racing each other on their bicycles, and one set in the temple to bring back memories of the temple festival and the inexpensive toys that were an important holiday purchase.
But strangely, given the overall arc of the screenplay, the camera spends a little too long lingering on the various artforms that form a part of the temple festival as well. We get extended documentary-like visuals of the Thiruvathirakali, Kathakali, Kalaraipayattu, Thalappoli and more, each performance accompanied by subtitles explaining the history and the significance of each art form.
Perhaps the film is intended for the NRI market, meant to introduce their kids to Kerala’s old art forms that are not getting the attention they deserve. Or, perhaps, it seeks to address the underlying theme about how a globalised world is affecting even the smallest of joys we took for granted as children. You are left wondering.
The classes the parents want their children to attend don’t relate to the arts or crafts. They want the kids to leave their bicycles and cricket bats to attend ‘Spoken English’ classes, to deal with the competition they will face in their future careers. The cost the kids and their parents will have to pay in this obsession with the future is what plays out like a cautionary tale for both parties.
With rough digital camera footage and the most basic of dialogues, the making further brings down the overall quality of the film, despite the well-intentioned message. “Let kids be kids” isn’t exactly the most original message to put forth, but it’s still one that strikes a chord, especially when steeped in nostalgia. But when the filmmaking itself is amateur, you realise that it’s a film that veers more towards ‘childish’ rather than the ‘childlike innocence’ it tries to recreate.