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Title: Nna Thaan Case Kodu
Director: Ratheesh Balakrishnan Podhuval
Star Cast: Kunchako Boban and Gayathri.
Rating : 3/5
Review by: Arjun Menon
Ratheesh Balakrishna Poduval in his own tilted way defines the seismic shift that’s bookmarked the evolution of today’s Malayalam cinema. He is too much of a populist filmmaker to let the odd giggle pass unnoticed and at the same time too self-aware to let his innate brevity being misread as hollowness. This interesting collage of filmmaking sensibilities fuels his latest offering Nna Thaan Case Kodu. Rajeevan (Kunchako Boban) is an ex-thief, who has left his shady days well behind and is trying hard to make ends meet with his wife Devi (Gayathri), who prompts his gradual ascent to ordinary life, and they are awaiting a baby. The events that propel the central conflict arise, when Rajeevan becomes part of a freak accident, thanks to a series of mishaps involving a local minister and a pair of household dogs.
Nna Thaan Case Kodu is a routine courtroom drama elevated at times by the power of oddball, poker-faced performances, in direct contrast with the satirical punches offered in the writing. The filmmaking is mostly a call back to the director’s phenomenal debut feature Android Kunjappan (still his best outing till date!) and is in stark odds with his quirky, nonsensical sophomore effort Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham. The playfulness begins with the structure that itself is built around a central device of irony; the whole courtroom sequences are bookmarked with the day and time of the hearing, along with the petrol prices, a reminder off the futile yet inconsequential nature of the case being dealt in court, with the outside reality of suppressed and hoodwinked public outrage.
Kunchako Boban is totally in sync with the roundedness of the narrative and the veteran actor underplays the emotional turmoil and resounding helplessness of the commoner left at the mercy of the system. The performance is nuanced and Kunchako Boban’s peculiar demeanour and gait help in setting up his haunting past and wayward ways of life without excessive expository callbacks. There is a highly lived-in quality to the way he renders even the most bizarre lines and directs our logic and standing on his condition. Gayathri pretty much gets a one-note headstrong wife part, that never develops any specific purpose in the movie but her sparse approach elevates some of the combination scenes in the latter half. The writing in the second act loses its way a little and starts to randomly insert set pieces like character scenes in the courtroom.
However, the tacky approach to incidental characters and witnesses never adds up to any major value in the latter half as the stakes get bigger for Rajeevan and the ones around him, and the humour runs out of any traces of satire often resorting to cold one-liners and repeated character strokes, desperate to mine the last ounce of the novelty of the new cast of ancillary players. Even though most of the casting choices fuel the arbitrary nature of the courtroom interactions, the seemingly new cast members appear to be reading random lines from a script, and the pitch of the performances gradually turns monotonous with the formality of line readings.
The core thematic idea of holding the whole micro agents of the system, accountable for their action in relation to public infrastructure, decision making and polity is made clear but the abrupt revelations towards the last act and social commentary pretty much sums up the core Philosophy that drives the films of director Shankar in movies like Gentleman and Anniyan, leaves a lot to be desired. The call for collective ownership and accountability is driven home rather amusingly through the lens of a common man but Nna Thaan Case Kodu somehow never manages to bounce out of the spirit of the umpteen routine, forceful essay like courtroom dramas, full of great ideas yet lacklustre in the payoffs.
Check out the film’s trailer below: