Cinema

'Nna Thaan Case Kodu' review: Smartly written humour elevates this courtroom drama

12th Aug 2022 01:44 PM | Sajin Shrijith

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The most evident advantage of casting newcomers is that we don’t look at the characters they play with preconceived notions. The surprise element is so high. The person with an intimidating personality can be the friendliest person and vice versa. That doesn’t always have to be the case, though. Sometimes a sober look reveals a humourless person underneath, and someone with the most pleasant disposition could be the most accessible person indeed. But there, too, is a surprise element when it comes to a newcomer. What degree of sobriety or joviality should we expect? Can a generally funny character suddenly turn serious or vice versa? 

Now some directors cast newcomers for budgetary reasons alone, and, most of the time, the actors don’t offer any surprises. But then there are the others who do it for all the reasons I mentioned above.  Writer-director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval belongs to the latter. His new film, Nna Thaan Case Kodu (NTCK), has many fresh faces aptly fitting their characters like a glove. The familiar ones may amount to four or five, including the leads Kunchacko Boban and Gayathrie Shankar. 

Set in Kasaragod’s Cheemeni, the film has the actors speaking in all the dialects local to the Malabar region. As someone who hails from Malabar, I have to say that NTCK has the most authentic-sounding dialogues I’ve heard since Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam. Ratheesh, who has already established himself as a unique voice with regard to humour in Malayalam cinema, once again proves, with NTCK, that nobody writes comical situations—audible and silent; verbal and physical—like he does. 

Now, I belong to the group that found much to enjoy in his last film Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham. If you belong to the camp that found it off-putting but adored his debut feature Android Kunjappan, you might be relieved to hear that NTCK doesn’t have the hyper-eccentric tendencies of KaKaaKa.

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In fact, it’s not even like Android Kunjappan—meaning it’s not as emotionally overpowering. This is, of course, not a complaint because NTCK is one of those films where one sees a perfect balance between the serious and lighthearted moments. What begins as a simple robbery case—involving Kunchacko Boban’s burglar Rajeevan—evolves into something with far-reaching effects. (No comparison to Mahaveeryar either. However, they do have funny courtroom scenes in common.)

When trying to recall all the memorable moments in NTCK, I realised that the characters’ silent moments stayed with me more, particularly the hilarious deadpan expressions. You can’t tell what they must be thinking until they show you. And Ratheesh has imbued each of them with distinctive, standout character traits. Everyone has something to do.

Here are a few: a police inspector who moonlights as a theyyam artiste; a constable who always does things by the book; a magistrate with high BP who is often distracted by pigeons; a corrupt minister who isn’t as formidable as he appears to be; a ‘freakan’ who would return the favour to anyone who slaps him, including cops; and a TikTok-loving MLA with an amusing family.

Among the familiar faces are actor-casting director Rajesh Madhavan (as an auto-rickshaw driver in love with a teacher). We even get cameos from Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval and filmmakers Basil Joseph and Mridul Nair. In my review of Ariyippu, I mentioned that we are currently going through a Kunchacko Boban renaissance.

His performance in NTCK further drives home that point. He brings the necessary measure of vulnerability and mischief to Rajeevan, who gradually reveals someone with a vast reservoir of willpower, with ample support from another strong character, played by Gayathrie Shankar, with whom he is in a live-in relationship.

The most evident advantage of casting newcomers is that we don’t look at the characters they play with preconceived notions. The surprise element is so high. The person with an intimidating personality can be the friendliest person and vice versa. That doesn’t always have to be the case, though. Sometimes a sober look reveals a humourless person underneath, and someone with the most pleasant disposition could be the most accessible person indeed. But there, too, is a surprise element when it comes to a newcomer. What degree of sobriety or joviality should we expect? Can a generally funny character suddenly turn serious or vice versa? 

Now some directors cast newcomers for budgetary reasons alone, and, most of the time, the actors don’t offer any surprises. But then there are the others who do it for all the reasons I mentioned above.  Writer-director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval belongs to the latter. His new film, Nna Thaan Case Kodu (NTCK), has many fresh faces aptly fitting their characters like a glove. The familiar ones may amount to four or five, including the leads Kunchacko Boban and Gayathrie Shankar. 

Set in Kasaragod’s Cheemeni, the film has the actors speaking in all the dialects local to the Malabar region. As someone who hails from Malabar, I have to say that NTCK has the most authentic-sounding dialogues I’ve heard since Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam. Ratheesh, who has already established himself as a unique voice with regard to humour in Malayalam cinema, once again proves, with NTCK, that nobody writes comical situations—audible and silent; verbal and physical—like he does. 

Now, I belong to the group that found much to enjoy in his last film Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham. If you belong to the camp that found it off-putting but adored his debut feature Android Kunjappan, you might be relieved to hear that NTCK doesn’t have the hyper-eccentric tendencies of KaKaaKa.

In fact, it’s not even like Android Kunjappan—meaning it’s not as emotionally overpowering. This is, of course, not a complaint because NTCK is one of those films where one sees a perfect balance between the serious and lighthearted moments. What begins as a simple robbery case—involving Kunchacko Boban’s burglar Rajeevan—evolves into something with far-reaching effects. (No comparison to Mahaveeryar either. However, they do have funny courtroom scenes in common.)

When trying to recall all the memorable moments in NTCK, I realised that the characters’ silent moments stayed with me more, particularly the hilarious deadpan expressions. You can’t tell what they must be thinking until they show you. And Ratheesh has imbued each of them with distinctive, standout character traits. Everyone has something to do.

Here are a few: a police inspector who moonlights as a theyyam artiste; a constable who always does things by the book; a magistrate with high BP who is often distracted by pigeons; a corrupt minister who isn’t as formidable as he appears to be; a ‘freakan’ who would return the favour to anyone who slaps him, including cops; and a TikTok-loving MLA with an amusing family.

Among the familiar faces are actor-casting director Rajesh Madhavan (as an auto-rickshaw driver in love with a teacher). We even get cameos from Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval and filmmakers Basil Joseph and Mridul Nair. In my review of Ariyippu, I mentioned that we are currently going through a Kunchacko Boban renaissance.

His performance in NTCK further drives home that point. He brings the necessary measure of vulnerability and mischief to Rajeevan, who gradually reveals someone with a vast reservoir of willpower, with ample support from another strong character, played by Gayathrie Shankar, with whom he is in a live-in relationship.

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