Chattambi review: This Sreenath Bhasi film is well-crafted

Grace Antony and Sreenath Bhasi give wonderful performances in this film about a ruffian, which, though well-scripted, does not leave a lasting impression.
A shot from the film where actor Sreenath Bhasi is squatting staring at a knife
A shot from the film where actor Sreenath Bhasi is squatting staring at a knife
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Kariya is not a good man. The lingering hope that there might be an ounce of sympathy in him, the goodness of heart that some people say he has, is lost the moment you hear him climb up the stairs to a house and beat up a man for not paying his debts while a woman and a baby cry loudly. The introduction to Kariya’s character happens in the first few minutes of Chattambi (meaning rowdy), a film that novelly has Sreenath Bhasi in the title role. He is the chattambi, the ruffian who means terror, beating people up, showing no remorse. Bhasi, who has been seen in myriad roles from playful friend to problematic sibling to random weirdo, unsurprisingly takes on the role of Kariya with charming ease. The film, in not attempting to give a past to Kariya that explains his wayward ways, stands out for being starkly honest.

Abhilash S Kumar, who has co-written quite a few films for Aashiq Abu (22 Female Kottayam, Da Thadiya, etc.), turns director with Chattambi. The story is by Don Palathara, another acclaimed director. And the script is Alex Joseph’s. Their combo results in a professional, well-researched work. The terrain shows the interiors of a village in Idukki, the dark and woody paths people take to reach home from work. The camera (also by Alex Joseph) takes you through the woods and the hills and the houses of the characters till you are familiar with them all.

John (Chemban Vinod), his wife Sicily (Grace Antony), their little boys and John’s old father (Chilamban) all live in a house that Kariya and another man called Baby (Binu Pappu) frequently visit. The three men come together to help John run his arrack business, mostly by threatening and beating up others who come in the way.

Kariya’s character is carefully built – his past shown in glimpses, as a 11-year-old boy who first shows his violent side by hitting his drunk dad with a piece of hot firewood because he was beating up his mother. Uma KP plays the stereotypical worried mother, crying and praying for the son who seems to be beyond help. Kariya, listening to her sobbing in the next room, doesn’t seem moved. He drinks and smokes through the day, a smile hardly ever crossing his face. Whenever he opens his mouth, it is mostly cuss words that flow. The only moment he shows a tinge of love is when he kisses the forehead of his little brother. Kariya does not seem to have any interests in life, except getting high or beating up people. He doesn’t have any romantic interest, or care to work.

John on the other hand is more the typical ‘bad guy’. He has a mistress (Mythily) and he wants a monopoly on the arrack business. Grace very maturely plays a character much older than her age, with meaningful expressions exchanged with the old dad (Chilamban in a noticeable performance) as a telling background music plays. Sicily’s character arc deserves a pat. She is a contrast to Kariya’s mother, not wasting a single tear on the mishaps, taking control.

The script leaves parts unsaid, relying on its wonderful actors. Another cherished performer, Guru Somasundaram, who gained a fan following in Kerala after Minnal Murali, shows up midway. Disappointingly though, his character and lines stick out, not matching the rest of the well-crafted script.

Despite the care that went into the filming, Chattambi does not manage to leave a lasting impression. The characters fade away with the title credits, none of them striking a chord, as they say. Maybe it is meant to be that way. Every person has a story, whether they deserve your sympathy or not.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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