Movie – Kutty Srank (Malayalam)
Director – Shaji N Karun
Producer – Reliance Big Pictures
Cast – Mammootty, Padmapriya, Siddique, Suresh Krishna, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Meena Kumari, Sayikumar and others.
Music – Issac Thomas Kottukappally
Cinematography – Anjali Shukla
Editing – Sreekar Prasad
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Harikrishnan, PF Mathews
Release Date – 23rd July 2010
The National Award winner for best feature film - Kutty Srank, was re-released this weekend for viewers who had missed out on the film in its very short theatrical run earlier. The movie which was completely ignored at the Kerala State Film Awards, won more than 5 awards in the National Film Awards announced last week including Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and special jury mentions for the editor Sreekar Prasad and actress Padmapriya. Set in post-independence Kerala, the movie tells the story of the character of Kutty Srank, through the three ladies in his life.
A dead body which is assumed to be that of Kutty Srank (Mammootty) is found off the Cochin shores. Kutty Srank was an aimless, nomadic person who wanders from shore to shore . He did not have a family, a caste or a religion. Revamma (Padmapriya) is summoned to identify the body and to be questioned about her relationship with the boat driver. Revamma narrates her story, of her turbulent relationship with her evil father, the murder of her lover, and how Kutty Srank helped her in her life. Next is the turn of Pemmena (Kamalinee Mukherjee) who was the second woman in his life. Kutty Srank had joined a ballet troupe specializing in the art form ‘Chavittunaadakam’, led by Loni Aashan (Suresh Krishna). Pemmana was his sister and she was in love with Kutty Srank even though he did not reciprocate the feelings. The vicar of the village chruch goes up in arms against Kutty Srank since Srank does not have a religion or a caste. Pemmena narrates the incidents that followed. Then the third woman, Kali (Meena Kumari) comes to the station to identify the body. The mute woman claims to be Kutty Srank’s wife and narrates her story of how Kutty Srank saved her from an entire village which considered her as an ill omen and the sole reason for all the misfortunes in their land. Kutty Srank’s character comes across to us through these three stories by three different women.
The episodic format which has been used in this film is a very tried and tested format including the latest release Pranchiyettan & The Saint which connects different incidents that occur during different time periods in its protagonist’s life. But here, the director has opted to use the same episodic format in a slightly different way. Here the protagonist’s story is revealed through the eyes of the three different women in his life, which is a very interesting way to tell a story, as different facets of the character are revealed through the different incidents that the women narrate.
The atmosphere, in which the story is told, is beautiful. The post-independence setting, the characterizations, the music and the locations are all part of creating this great atmosphere in which the story is told. The movie starts on a slow note, with Padmapriya’s story, moves forward and then picks up momentum with Kamalinee’s story which is simply a treat to watch and then again slows down during Meena Kumari’s story. The ending leaves much to the imagination of the viewer making one think about what happened to Srank much after he/she leaves the movie hall. Along with three women, it also tells the tale of the three shores/villages that Kutty Srank goes to - one in Malabar, one in Kochi and one in Travancore. It deals with three religions - Buddhism (Revamma), Christianity (Pemmena) and Hinduism (Kali) also. And also symbolises three different seasons - summer for Revamma's portion, monsoons for Pemmena's portion and winter for Kali's portion. The film’s most entertaining parts are during Srank’s stay in Cochin along with Pemmana and Loni Aashan. There are some brilliantly written scenes and sequences in this portion of the film which stands apart from the rest of the film. There is a lot of dark humour in those portions, which makes them entertaining as well. Srank appears as different persons to these different women, He is a ruthless animal-like servant at first for Revamma, but then he undergoes a miraculous transformation out of guilt. Pemmena looks upto him with utmost admiration and love and she cannot resist revealing her strong and raw sexual nature to Srank. For Kali, Srank becomes a saviour. There is the signature of the masterful direction of Shaji N Karun throughout the movie.
Coming to performances, Mammootty is, as expected, brilliant as the protagonist Kutty Srank. He underplays his part beautifully and is able to bring out the growth and decline of the character quite well on screen through the three interpretations, even though there is little change in his physical appearances. He plays the same character, but he comes across as three different persons to each woman. And it was pleasantly surprising to see him making some great moves during the Chavittunaadakam portions. But the movie’s best performance comes from the under-rated Suresh Krishna who is usually typecast in villain roles. He gives a spectacular performance as Loni Aashan. Suresh’s only negative is his voice, and in this movie, somebody better has dubbed for him with a voice that perfectly suits the character. Siddique is brilliance personified and he has been proving that time and again with each and every character he gets. The Palliyil Achan in this movie was no different. Padmapriya does exceptionally well as Revamma. Kamalinee Mukherjee is very good and has done a scene which comes across as quite a shocker to the audience as well. Meena Kumari as the mute woman who is considered a bad omen to an entire village is excellent. In fact, she gives the best performance among the female leads. Sayikumar plays his part with considerable ease. The actor who played the drama artist Joppan deserves special mention. P Sreekumar and Nandu are also part of the cast. The actor who played Padmapriya’s father did some terribly bad acting.
This review wouldn't be complete without a mention of the magical cinematography in this film by first-timer Anjali Shukla. One of the very very few female cinematographers we have in the country. Her National Award was indeed well deserved as the movie has some absolutely amazing visuals. Shaji N Karun’s films always have brilliant cinematography, since he is a cinematographer himself. Sound design is another brilliant aspect in the movie. And the movie has a wonderfully charming musical score by Isaac Thomas Kottukappally. The songs during the Chavittunaadakam portions are delightful to listen to. Mammootty himself has sung a drinking song in the film. Sreekar Prasad's fine editing also adds much more value to the film. The National Award winning Costume designer Jayakumar deserves a special mention, especially for the wonderful costumes he created for the drama portions. The technical team has done a marvellous job in the film.
Overall, Kutty Srank is definitely a great piece of cinema. It was not my kind of cinema, but it still kept me hooked throughout, except for very few scenes that didnt rise up to the level of the rest of the movie. The movie stands on a slightly lower position, when compared to Shajji N Karun's previous movie Vaanaprastham (released 10 years ago). It has great performances, innovative storytelling, fantastic cinematography, beautiful music, and a great atmosphere. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but connoisseurs of offbeat cinema, this is indeed a treat.
Rating - 4/5