Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching another Malayalam film Kumari which is streaming on Netflix. And I hadn’t even heard about the film until I got a recommendation about it on my Youtube Channel Popcorn Reviewss by Manjunath. Post that, I looked up the film and got to know that it is an addition to the forklore horror, something that we have seen in films like Tumbbad.
India is a land of many stories that are deeply rooted in our culture and forklore. In fact if you recall, as kids we were told stories about kings and queens along with a touch of mythology which in a way could be classified as a forklore too. So I have always longed such themes to be converted for the big screen wherein more and more stories could be adapted from the forklore, especially for the modern generation. This is largely an untapped genre and a lot to be excavated if the right attempts are made. So, a couple of days back when I heard about this film, it got me excited. I was to originally push the film to next week but eventually decided to get past this as soon as possible. So then does Kumari manage to weave a gothic forklore, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Kumari is again one of those films that you need to venture in with a clean slate without any pre-conceived notions. And I say this not because of the story per se but because it is an immersive experience much like the recently released film Kantara. It all boils down to how much you wish to invest in the drama without really picking on some of its shortcomings. And this was most definitely a big screen experience that I may have missed out on. The screenplay standing at about 140 minutes does make for a compelling watch!
The drama starts off with a bang wherein a grandmother weaves a forklore for her grandchild. The storytelling technique in the first 20 minutes was so engrossing that it had me sold instantly. There was right amount of detailing coupled with a perfect setting for a forklore for the ages! If ever there was a perfect beginning then this was it. Soon, the story shifts to the protagonist and how she is married off to a land that is cursed. There are a few jump scares here and there but mostly the drama does rely on the atmospherics which are done really well.
The drama does give you an eerie vibe every now and then. And this is to do as much with the set of characters as it does with the forklore. The narrative style is focused particularly in the first hour which does build up the tension bit by bit by its leisurely pace. At this point, your mind is really running places, trying to figure out which direction would the drama head. The violence and gore along with elements of belief and sorcery adds nice little layers to this drama. Even the brief psychological angle did give me the creeps! On a slight downside, some of the characters were undercooked.
The drama though slightly stumbles in the second hour although not to a point of a trainwreck. The grip on the screenplay does slight loosen up where things do get a little repetitive as opposed to be cerebral and complex. What that does is that it entangles the drama upto an extent. But because the setup of the first half was so good that some of the flaws in the second half are hidden and that is what makes the drama consistently watchable. The twists and turns are fairly predictable, barring a couple, but I would like to appreciate the writers for effectively tying things together well. The stage was set for a mind-boggling final act but unfortunately I felt the makers may have gone slightly overboard with the budget. As a result, the final act was at best abrupt and underwhelming as opposed to hair raising. But taking nothing away from the journey which was pretty engrossing and interesting in most parts summing up a screenplay which was well written.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are cerebral and they are definitely rooted making for a spectacular impact. The music and BGM are good and blend well with the drama, however a couple of songs do stall the flow of the drama. They could simply have been avoided altogether. The cinematography, colour grading and art design are absolutely world class and they consistently keep your interests peaked even when the writing briefly falters in the second hour. Director Nirmal Sahadev does a pretty good job in weaving an enthralling forklore that is engaging in most parts although there was scope for improvement.
The performances are fabulous here although some characters are underwritten here. Shruthy Menon as Parijatham, Giju John as Achuthan and Tanvi Ram as Nangakutty all have moments to shine. Shivajith Padmanabhan as Thuppan is first rate. Rahul Madhav as Jayan is good in an underwritten role. His character could have been explored a little more. Swasika as Lakshmi is wonderful despite a limited screentime. Surabhi Lakshmi as Muthamma will send a shiver down your spine in a wonderfully enacted role. Shine Tom Chacko as Dhruvan is terrifyingly brilliant and he is consistent in managing to shock me with his performance. His character required a certain amount of physicality and he pulls it off really well. Aishwarya Lekshmi as Kumari is the life of this forklore. There are different phases to her character with conflicting emotions and she had an incredibly good job here. Yes, the underwritten climax(wish it was more layered) did restrict her performance but that is more due to the writing more than anything else.
Kumari is a deeply rooted gothic forklore that makes for a compelling watch. Available on Netflix.