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Kammati Paadam: It’s About Your City, My City... Our Hell Holes

Why Dulquer Salmaan’s new film ‘Kammati Paadam’ works

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Red has been the colour of the month this May in Kerala. On the 19th of May, God’s own people opened the floodgates for an all red groundswell surge by ushering in the Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Communist combine, to lead them for the next five years.

The next day, Rajeev Ravi’s Kammati Paadam released, a sweeping tale of gang conflicts, friendship, brotherhood, love and revenge conveyed with such blood red sincerity that as one left the marquee you stole a glance to check if your hands were stained red or not.

Kammati Paadam is a gem that Malayalam cinema nowadays has a knack of coming out with at regular intervals. Earlier this year we had Maheshinte Prathikaaram (The Revenge of Mahesh), that debutant director Dileesh Pothan weaved so dexterously that one went back smiling at the marvelous story telling and not for a moment gushing about the hero.

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Why Dulquer Salmaan’s new film ‘Kammati Paadam’ works
Vinayakan, Dulquer and Shaun in Kammati Paadam

The same is true of Kammati Paadam where you have the most visceral set of performers, many first timers and others drawn primarily from theatre, holding their own with Dulquer Salmaan, one among a brave breed of young actors with a penchant for choosing the right script. Kammati Paadam never turns out to be a one-man show that Malayalam cinema has been so languorously used to over the many decades, as it draws you closer to each one of its characters as the reels unwind.

Traversing back and forth in time with Dulquer’s character Krishnan, the film reminds us of the crass, frenzied and monstrous trail that urbanization has forged, leaving in its wake small, pulverized dreams amid a pile of corpses that could not keep up with the absurd streak of a Mammonized lot.

Rajeev Ravi crafts such a mesmerising portrayal of the underbelly in a Kochi hamlet called Kammati Paadam from the 70s to the present, with characters so real, one feels for each one of them.

Why Dulquer Salmaan’s new film ‘Kammati Paadam’ works
Manikandan, Vinayakan and Dulquer in Kammati Paadam

In a botched up killing, one of the gang members is dying, with the rest gathered around trying to revive him in vain, you cry and wail with them, for so strong is the bond that the viewer inextricably cultivates with all the characters in the film. The power of cinema in a sense is when you are able nurture that concern for a fleeting character, unsung and so ordinary. In a glorious scene where the leader of the gang Balan, played remarkably by Manikandan says the dapper Krishnan looks like Salman Khan and the nod of approval comes by way of Ganga essayed by a brilliantly assured Vinayakan, whose visage is such a stunning chaotic muddle that you smile. It is Ganga’s character that forms the fulcrum of Kammati Paadam and it is through him that the story tilts and propels forward.

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Why Dulquer Salmaan’s new film ‘Kammati Paadam’ works
Dulquer Salmaan in Kammati Paadam

The only tacky scene in the film is at the fag end when Krishnan sends his nemesis hurtling to his grave, crashing through an all glass enclosed penthouse perch. The straggling night life of the city of Kochi and its denizens standing by as stark witnesses. As Mammon plummeted to its inevitable death, I rose from the swanky multiplex recliner and left, smug and passive, my feet sashaying over unending acres of shimmering granite raised upon the shattered aspirations of millions like Ganga and his friends.

(The writer is a Social Development Consultant based in Delhi working with The World Bank and never misses to the chance to watch a Malayalam film)

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