The film, directed by Muhammed Musthafa, has technique, style and some lovely performances, and moves almost smoothly but gets a tad too abrupt in the end.

Kappela review Anna Ben Roshan Mathew and Sreenath Bhasi turn in great performances
Flix Review Friday, March 06, 2020 - 17:29
Worth a watch

The rain is so close you can trace a single drop’s hurried journey to the ground. The camera zooms out only after it makes sure you have noticed the heaviness of the rain before it takes you to the two young women huddled under an umbrella, going to catch a bus. One gets in, the other says goodbye, and Anna Ben’s face is finally in the light. A journey is about to begin.

Kappela begins at a peak point of the story it is going to tell. A technique that it uses more than once to grab your interest and keep you wondering what it’s all about. Not in a whodunit mystery sort of way, but just a casual, making-you-curious kind of way. Muhammed Musthafa, the actor who won a special mention for Ain at the 62nd National Awards, has turned to filmmaking in style. He is a man of method, you can see.

The tale is almost as simple and the storytelling as hurried as the little raindrop you watched fall to the ground (Jimshi Khalid’s camera is not going to let you forget that). It is all over before you notice it has begun. The story is set in beautiful places (Wayanad and Kozhikode), the actors chosen are proven performers and the script (written by Musthafa with Nikhil Vahid and Sudhas) moves almost smoothly towards the end, where it gets a tad too abrupt and appears to switch itself off all too soon.

It’s all fine at first when Anna Ben is introduced as a happy young woman called Jessie, quite satisfied with her life in a small town, hanging out with her next door neighbour Lakshmi (small but fine performance by Nilja), helping her mom the tailor, a little wary of her no-nonsense dad, and having sweet and sour exchanges with her school-going sister.

Jessie has failed class 12 and seems quite unbothered about it. All she wants at the moment is an upgrade of her text-and-call-only phone to a smartphone, and if possible to see the sea again someday. The small expressions of ordinary moments come easily to Anna, as it did in Kumbalangi Nights and Helen. It is difficult to say if she’s matured as an actor when she’s done her first two films so well. Only, her characters appear to fall into the same arc – lower to middleclass, not too educated commoner with a particular grit.

It is to this hassle-free life that Roshan Mathew’s character Vishnu enters, mostly as a voice on the phone. A wrong number connects the two who live in two districts in Kerala – a theme used in older Malayalam films, starting from black-and-white days. But this doesn’t seem repetitive and Jessie and Vishnu’s exchanges are all very sweet to observe, the progression from annoying caller to interesting conversations to love. What’s also novel about the script is how the difference in their religions is never raised, even though expressions of it are there – Jessie would draw the cross every so often, Vishnu has a red mark on his forehead most of the time.

Everything around the two characters appears to take place in their natural pace. A man in her town (Sudhi Koppa) with a huge crush on Jessie trying to bring a proposal home. Jessie’s typical and conventional parents creating an issue when her little sister takes a cycle ride home with a boy. Lakshmi being the friend, listening to Jessie’s troubles and covering up when necessary.

It’s when the first peak point is explained that the second begins, in the form of Sreenath Bhasi’s rough-young-man character Roy. The differences between Vishnu’s and Roy’s behaviours are meant to be noticed. Vishnu is the hardworking autorickshaw driver, liked and appreciated by other rickshaw drivers in the stand, helping out the helpless, enjoying a good time with his colleagues in the evenings. Roy is tough, gets into fights, has little money and speaks rudely. Roshan Mathew and Sreenath Bhasi do their roles so well that you wouldn’t be surprised by anything their characters could pull. You expect it and they deliver it.

Sushin Shyam’s beautiful songs flow beautifully by, like a stream, there for you to notice if you want to or else leave it alone.

All the smoothness of the film, however, appears to come to a sudden halt as the film comes to its end. It’s a nice enough ending but one that appears to have skipped a few chapters in between. One peak point that forgot to back-trace its journey. But then Muhammed Musthafa – who also makes a short appearance in the film – has style and method, and you can predict he is only going to get better at it.

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.

Three different ways to become a TNM member - check them out now!.