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Kaathal - The Core

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4.5 Star popcorn reviewss


Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Malayalam film Kaathal – The Core starring Mammootty and Jyotika. The film marks my third Mammootty film in a theatre this year, and quite honestly the 72 year old Superstar is enjoying the purplest patch of his career over a period of the past 18 months. It is heartening to witness the shift in his paradigm, from being slightly regressive in his choices in the 80s and 90s to completely reinventing himself by not only starring in niche films but supporting them financially as well. One such film is Kaathal – The Core. 

Before I get to my review, I would wish to rant a little on a rather disturbing event that transpired last week. 16 year old Pranshu, a queer makeup artist ended up committing suicide following the homophobic hate that they received on their social media post. This event has angered me to no bounds considering how people still have been bullying people based on their appearance and sexuality, making me wonder on whether we are making any progress as a society at all. If in 2023, members of the LGBTQIA are looked down upon despite all the awareness around it, then it is indeed the downfall of a society which was once considered peace-loving and respecting. I hope all the perpetrators are punished but why do I bring this up in the review? 

Cinema is often a medium of asking burning questions or discussing relevant topics. And the topic of LGBTQIA has always been under the scanner for its misrepresentation through the 90s and early 2000s in India. And while the situation has drastically improved cinematically, I still see a resistance in the commercial with all the top stars refraining from portraying such roles owing to their public images. In this light, if someone of the stature of Mammootty were to portray the role of a homosexual(like in Kaathal – The Core), what that would do is bring the masses to understand the intricacies of the issue which will only help the larger cause of the community. In this light, I was curious on what Mammootty had to offer with Kaathal – The Core and his collaboration with Jeo Baby, a filmmaker who had brought one of the finest Malayalam films of 2021 in the form of The Great Indian Kitchen. That said, does Kaathal – The Core manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Kaathal – The Core follows the story of a retired bank employee who decides to stand for a local Panchayat election, until his wife unexpectedly files for a divorce, claiming that he is a homosexual. The story here is nuanced and almost aching to a point that its after-effects would gently linger on after the film has ended. The tone of the drama is understated with its leisurely pacing and it slowly but steadily engulfs you in the most unassuming manner, and therein lies the beauty of the story featuring a topic that is mostly brushed under the carpet. The screenplay standing at a shade under 2 hours is compelling and filled with gentle emotions that allow you to invest in the drama throughout. 

Firstly, I would really appreciate the makers for infusing levels of inclusivity in the drama. I liked how the entire crew of the film were acknowledged at the beginning of the initial titles culminating into the actors. This set a good accord for the whole team, and it creating a positive vibe of inclusivity right at the start of the film. To accompany the long rolling initial titles is a beautiful melancholic symphony that slowly invites you in the drama while promising an emotional angle to the proceedings. This, without a single shot unfolding with the titles. This symphony set a beautifully aching vibe to the drama that almost sucks you in the world wonderfully well. 

Soon you are introduced to the principal characters who undergo their routine lives for pretty much the entire first hour. Amidst this, you see the protagonist Mathew resolve an issue between a couple and the parents with love, establishing the fact that love is his virtue. This, even while he is campaigning for a local election where the general consensus is that politics and love do not go together. The twist in the tale arises when the character of the wife, Omana files for divorce while the reason behind is is kept intact, almost being brushed under the carpet without being discussed in the open. It is implied with several hints along the way that Mathew is a homosexual having being attracted to another local Thankan, while being trapped in his marriage. A subplot involving Thankan is equally heartbreaking having to single-handedly shoulder the burden of the million whispers and gazes around him, while it is implied that his own nephew might be in a similar situation. In a scene later on in the film, he explains to his nephew on how he has people around him to love, unlike others, thus referring to himself. 

What I really enjoyed about the drama was how well the politics of the drama is handled by the writers. The topic of homosexuality is still being uttered in a hush hush tone in our society, and the same isn’t discussed openly at all, even know most people are aware of the same in Mathew’s town. Usually, there are opinions floated casually until the same is confined to your own home, and here too you see Mathew never really discussing the same with his family, while holding a mountain of pain within him. The only discussion that transpires is during the court case when the can of worms open, but the same is done with utmost sensitivity and poise. 

I have time and again said this that no other industry establishes the world and the character development like the Malayalam Film Industry. And that is true here with respect to the equation that Mathew and Omana share with each other. In a scene in the kitchen, the two exchange pleasantaries while Omana wishes the best for Mathew in his election campaign. In another scene, Mathew holds the purse of Omana while she steps into the witness box to testify against him. This, while the two visit and leave the court together in the same vehicle. There is so much love and admiration between the two that is further established with the fact that Omana tells her father-in-law that she hasn’t filed for divorce to hurt or malign Mathew, implying that it was to set him free. 

The only occasion we see Mathew openly acknowledging his sexuality at his place was with his father in a heartbreaking scene that helped him reconcile with his pain and suffering that he had capped in his heart for so many years. The events leading to the final act are achingly beautiful, and I liked how the makers focused on love finding a way to win against all odds but in a totally different capacity. The little rainbow at the end gives a lot of hope for the times to come. Overall, the screenplay is extremely well penned and makes for a wonderfully heartfelt watch.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are gentle while never overpowering the theme of the film. The writers do not coax you into tilting your loyalties towards the messaging of the film, and that is represented beautifully through its lines that are conversational. The music is beautifully and perfectly captures the mood of the drama. But even more heartfelt is the melancholic BGM that slowly pierces and tugs into the strings of your heart while making its way to your soul. It is sparingly used but used very effectively throughout the film. The cinematography captures some beautiful frames right throughout the narrative wherein the frames have purpose. At about the halfway mark, you see Thankan and Mathew for the first time in a single frame with all the rain around, signifying turmoil in their lives. The same is represented by a rainbow at the end, implying that their ‘love’ wins. In a separate scene, you see Mammootty staring at the mirror wishing for a life that he has never experienced to date. These moments are captured with a lot of grace throughout the narrative. The editing is sharp and crisp wherein the drama doesn’t feature any lags as such. Director Jeo Baby does a wonderful job in representing a side of the society who is uncomfortable about addressing the elephant in the room. He creates deft moments that do leave you shattered while you constantky think about its characters after the film has ended. The direction is simply outstanding!


The performances are wonderfully restrained by the ensemble cast. Alister Alex as Kuttayi is beautiful in his portrayal as a troubled teenager and I really wish for a spin off film of his character too. Anagha Ravi as Feni has a towering personality onscreen and she does a wonderful job. Josey Sijo as Sibin and Adarsh Sukumaran as Pradeep lending outstanding support and they are a treat to watch. Chinnu Chandni as Sajitha and Muthumani as Ameera are incredibly good in such sincere and earnest performances. Sudhi Kozhikode as Thankan expresses his pain beautifully through his eyes and it represents the mountains of pain that he has being carrying. RS Panicker as Devassy is wonderfully restrained particularly in the pre-final act wherein his son breaks down in front of him. 

Jyotika as Omana is such a brilliant performer with an ability to internalise and carry the amount of pain within her. Her eyes speak a thousand words while she endures the emotions within her. This nuanced performance was indeed one of the highlights of the film wherein she was just excellent in her role. 

Mammootty is in the form of his life. He started the year with Nanpakal, dipped a little with Christopher only to rise again with Kannur Squad and hit the pinnacle here in Kaathal. As Mathew, there is just so much restraint and grace in his act wherein he engulfs his pain with a smile on his face. And when he chooses to express, he allows the viewers scope to shed a tear with him while completely breaks you to bits. And I haven’t even got to the point of this being such a brave choice in the commercial space, in a day and age wherein his peers or even his immediate juniors are still playing larger than life characters without even wishing to experiment once in a while, feeling that their fans won’t accept them in such roles. And I can’t think of another 72 year old actor who is so secure of his space while transforming himself from the rut of regressiveness only a few years ago! I am a Mammootty fan and the fan boy in me did sleep well last night!


Kaathal – The Core is an achingly beautiful drama with melancholic undertones and such sensitive performances that it makes for a wonderful watch. This drama comes with my highest recommendation! Available in a thearre near you and Highly Highly Recommended!

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