It is still a Thursday and a day away from the weekend. However, the new releases have started pouring in on a weekend which is slightly subdued given that there is a potential Blockbuster loading mid-week. And while the Pathaan advance bookings are in full swing, the focus still remains on a handful of new releases this weekend. And the weekend cannot be complete without the release of a Malayalam film. With that, I finished watching the new Malayalam film Kaapa which is now streaming on Netflix. And my interests were already piqued as it was a Malayalam film.
With my excitement was also a sense of caution to manage my expectations. And the reason for the same was that the film is directed by Shaji Kailas whose previous film Kaduva did not work for me. In fact, Kaduva was one of the few Malayalam films from last year that did not quite sit right for me. But having said that, there were moments in Kaduva too which were compelling and it was just a matter of creating more such moments in his new venture, Kaapa. So with hope and skepticism(yes, like always), I did finish watching Kaapa. Is it worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Kaapa follows the story of a man who realises that his wife’s name is incorrectly mentioned under Kaapa which contains the list of notorious gangsters. Will he be able to get her name removed from the list? The story is a compelling gangster drama despite a not so novel subject. Having said that, its treatment is layered and that is what makes this film compelling. The screenplay standing at about a 133 minutes does not overstay its welcome and makes for a taut watch.
The drama opens with a bit of a mystery. After being introduced to one of the protagonists and his wife, you can almost tell that something is amyss. The wife at that point did seem to have a bit of a past which wasn’t revealed straight away. And that is what made things interesting, thereby keeping the ball rolling for things to come. Almost immediately you are given a glimpse into the past of the wife that did involve a tragedy, before getting straight to the point. Make no mistake, the drama is layered from the onset with the writers peeling off each layer bit by bit which does keep you invested throughout.
The drama is engaging and engrossing and much has to do with the terrific characterization of the gangster protagonist. At the beginning, the viewer is allowed to judge without any prejudices but every now and then, you are given a glimpse of his personality through a flashback. The drama does oscillate between the past and present, often jumping timelines which almost demands the attention of the viewers. An important ingredient in a gangster drama is the ambience and the situations that the characters find themselves in. And that is presented with aplomb here and richly so. The sequences are thrilling and quite interesting without much roadblocks. Again the interval block is very well executed too.
The twists and turns are subtle and not really shocking, given that there are only two to three parties involved in the drama, yet it is compelling to watch. On a slight downside, the original issue of the wife’s name being on the Kaapa list did at some point meet with a simplistic solution and I did feel that the focus wasn’t much on that event as much as on the notorious gangster. Another minor blip was the characterization of other characters other than the gangster protagonist. A late surge did improve things but I still did wish for a little more detailing with respect to their backgrounds. That said, the events leading up to the final act are fabulous to watch that have the ability to hold your attention throughout. Even a little outro that has a twist in the tale does set the path beautifully for a potential sequel. So overall, the screenplay here is engaging and compelling despite minor glitches.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sharp and massy that makes for a good impact. Here I must say that there must be method to madness while creating a mass entertainer too. Unlike the recent Telugu films, this film doesn’t stray away from its core, either by resorting to comedy or mindless romantic tracks. Something that the other industries could learn from the Malayalam film industry. The BGM is pulsating and lights up the screen at several junctures. The cinematography is excellent and captures some beautiful frames here. Director Shaji Kailas does a fabulous job here in creating the right kind of an atmosphere for a gangster drama. While some characters could have been better defined, he doesn’t stray from the core idea and thereby creates a compelling drama that had me invested throughout.
The performances are brilliant here although once again I did wish that a couple of characters did get better scope. Anna Ben as Binu is phenomenal especially in the dying moments of the drama. Likewise for Aparna Balamurali who is outstanding as Prameela. Their face-off would be an interesting watch if Kaapa 2 does transpire. Dileesh Pothan as Latheef is calculative and does a brilliant job. Asif Ali as Anand, probably the only character without grey shades is sincere and earnest and delivers a compelling performance. But this is an out and out Prithviraj Sukumaran show! As Madhu, he is outstanding to watch with his magnanimous screen presence. And his intimidating act does ensure that the core of the drama remains intact and often lands well.
Kaapa is a compelling gangster drama with outstanding performances that makes for a good watch. Available on Netflix.