Kammatti paadam - A tribute to lost souls and the songs they sung.
Kammatti paadam is an ode to the past, present and future of an upcoming metropolis that stands tall above the boneyards of the proletariat.
Just like Rajiv Ravi’s previous movies, the movie doesn’t betray any visible politics, but each and every frame of the movie is pregnant with the struggle of proletariat for its rightful share in the ‘development pie’ that the society as a whole achieved through their labour.
The movie is about how the lives of people who lived in Kammatti Paadam turned out as Ernakulam grew to be a large city. Kammatti Paadam is the name of the village where the present K.S.R.T.C bus stand, Ernakulam stands. The story revolves around the lives of a few men who had nothing but plain courage in their pursuit to hack their way up through the society. As the movie progresses, the audience is made to stand mute witness to the metamorphosis of Kammatti paadam from a sprawling wetland to a congested urban forest.
The movie opens with the hero, Krishnan (played by Dulquar Salman) who hails from Kammatti paadam , boarding a public transport vehicle after getting stabbed in the stomach. He tries hard to stay conscious and keep himself alive till he reaches an hospital.
The surprise to the audience start the moment when the bus conductor coldly asks the hero to pay for the ticket. The hero, who is visibly bleeding, hands over a thousand rupee note to the conductor, who promptly issues the ticket.
The cold nature of society and its apathy towards the bleeding hero is not highlighted, but is left for the audience to pick up - starting from frame one. Such is the distribution of subtle political cues throughout the movie.
The movie proceeds as memories flash through the mind of Krishnan who is struggling to keep himself up in the transport bus. His whole life flashes in front of his eyes. One essential feature of memories is being non-linear and when the director tells the story through memories of the protagonist, the narration ought to be non-linear. It is not a trivial task to make non-linear narration look natural and the director deserves much praise for pulling it out seamlessly.
The memory train of Krishnan first takes us to his life in exile as a security guard in Mumbai. It gives no clues about his violent past unless he receives a call from Ganga, his close friend. The call gets lost abruptly and Krishnan is not able to connect to Ganga again. Krishnan senses danger and sets out to Kammatti Paadam, where both of them grew up, in a pursuit to find Ganga.
The movie then switches between Krishnan’s narrative of their past and the pursuit of Krishnan towards finding Ganga. Though there is an element of suspense, the movie never pumps up adrenaline. The bleak narrative of the shady past paints a picture to the audience that Krishnan’s pursuit to save Ganga is going to end up in vain.
One thing peculiar to Kammatti paadam is that it is a Gangster movie which cannot be called as an action movie. It does contain plenty of violence that could arguably lead to an “A” certificate, but the narrative is more about how the characters react to the conditions they find themselves in.
It’s probably easier to act than to react on screen. Dulquar Salman, along with Manikandan as Balan and Vinayakan as Krishnan’s best friend Ganga does an amazing job in bringing up this action, reaction and counter-action sequence to life on the screen.
Rajiv Ravi haven’t compromised a bit in bringing together a ensemble cast that brings to life the plight of the people who dwelled in Kammatti Paadam.
Kammatti Paadam features a cast that does justice to the story. Manikandan deserves praise for his role as “Balan”, who hails from the traditional farming community who switches to a violent lifestyle in a bid to make ends meet when the farms are converted to flats as the city boomed.
Balan embodies a portion of the labour class who was used as a weapon of oppression by the land owning class. Balan is unable to sense the deceit of his manipulators and symbolises the ‘lose of innocence’ at the hands of deceit - a theme that recurs in Rajiv Ravi’s movies.
Model Shaun Romy did a good job as Anitha and Srinda’s voice matched perfectly with her body language. Though Romy lacked a bit in dialogue delivery, her expressions were good enough to cover it up. Anitha was no silly character and she did justice to bring her up to life.
P Balachandran, Anjali Aneesh, Muthumani and Amalda Liz along with others went natural in their roles to prove that there was no stones unturned in the cast of the movie.
Music plays a central role in the narrative of Kammatti Paadam. The folk music that is passed across generations appears again and again in the crucial turning points in the movie.
We all are comfortable with tuning our ears to good music, but how many of us are comfortable with turning our heads to what the music is talking about?
The lyrics are beautifully written by Anwar Ali and reflects the plight of the bygone agrarian community in Kerala. When the crime infested successive generations sing the same songs seemingly unaware of the meaning, the politically literate audience wouldn’t be able to overlook the connotations.
####The A certificate.
All that said, for a fair warning, “Kammatti Paadam” is clearly not a movie everyone would enjoy. The movie is a bit slow at places and presents dense frames to narrate the movie realistically in a non-linear fashion.
The “A” certificate may be justified for the violence that persists throughout the movie. In any case, the movie would satiate the senses of a discerning audience and anyone should find the movie entertaining despite being lagging at times.
P.S Rajiv Ravi have promised to release a four and half hours long directors cut as DVD if needed. That’s something serious movie goers could look forward to!