Oru Kuttanadan Blog movie review: Mammootty photobombs a potentially intimate snapshot of rural Kerala
Without the burden of a superstar presence, Oru Kuttanadan Blog had the potential to be an observant snapshot of rural Kerala. This is evident from the fact that even with Mammootty in the cast, it is less obsessed with him than most films featuring this iconic star have been for too long now, and it still manages to offer some amusing and some disconcerting insights into the community in which it operates. That it is better than the rest does not make it a fine film though, it just makes it... well... better than the rest. Period.
Oru Kuttanadan Blog is set in a village called Krishnapuram in Kerala's Kuttanad region where, when we first enter the scene, a frenzy is being whipped up around the return from Dubai of a legendary local called Hari, addressed by all his fawning, parasitic fans among the youth as Hariettan (elder brother Hari).
Obviously, Hariettan is played by Mammootty. It soon becomes evident why these youngsters are so taken by him. He is always up for an adventure, he does not have a parent-like fuddy-duddy attitude to them, he is their drinking companion and the financer of their drinks, he has the wisdom to sort out their girl problems, he is an all-round nice guy who goes out of his way to help his people, and most important, he unblinkingly doles out money to those he is fond of and some people who are not so nice to him too.
Like most Malayalam films these days featuring the two Ms - Mammootty and Mohanlal - the leading man is a superhero even if he cannot fly. Especially in the case of Mammootty-starrers, his secret weapon is his SuperCharm which often translates into SuperHotness. This charm works on young men who hang on to his every word, ape his wardrobe and style, and are left gaping as equally charmed young women fall for him by the dozen. The scenario is usually peppered with pretty women belonging to Mammukka's children's generation who are either sexually attracted to him or at the very least are viewed as wife material for him by the surrounding families.
Male devotees of Mammootty's character in Oru Kuttanadan Blog: check.
Female admirers and possible bhaaryas: check, double check, triple check, quadruple check.
The strict new SI played by Shamna Kasim, Hariettan's childhood sweetheart who is back in Krishnapuram (Raai Laxmi) and his elderly mentor's beautiful daughter (Anu Sithara) are all close to him. Even the grouchy local Panchayat member played by Thezni Khan cannot help but look at him with goggle eyes even when she conspires against him with her jealous colleagues.
We have seen it all before on numerous occasions, the difference here being that even while operating in cliched territory, Oru Kuttanadan Blog more or less steers clear of the star-struck camerawork of most Mammootty films (such as those by-now-familiar and terribly irritating tilt shots used to emphasise his strapping physique) and does not have him strutting about as if on a catwalk while a big hoo-haa is created around his sunglasses, shoes, the rest of his attire and his gait. (Possible spoilers ahead) Interestingly too, despite the as-usual-cringe-worthy age difference between him and the three women who are romantically linked to him by the village grapevine, here for a change, he actually states in black and white to one of them that she is like a sister to him in his eyes and he is consequently feeling hurt by the ugly speculation surrounding them, he becomes friends with the second and they share a good laugh over how the locals must be gossiping about them, and to the third he acknowledges that he saw her as a possible partner who could assuage his loneliness. The song 'Maanathe' even describes her as his koottukkaari (friend). (Spoiler alert ends) For a character played by Mammootty in his stereotypical SuperCharming, SuperHot superhero avatar to admit to being vulnerable and for a female lover to be seen as a friend is in itself unusual for a genre which is steeped in the othering of women and an almost dehumanising pedestalisation of men. (For the record, yes, the Malayalam superstar vehicle is a genre unto itself).
All three women, especially Anu Sithara, are interesting. And it is a relief to see Mammootty marginally toning down his superstar airs for this role, which is the best thing that can be said of a performance otherwise marked by a sameness that has bogged him down for years now.
So hold on to the champagne corks, because any element worth celebrating in this film is diluted by its largely formulaic nature, made worse by a crucial thread in which Sethu (who is also the film's writer) casually misrepresents laws relating to sexual violence, wittingly or unwittingly perpetuating the misconception misogynists hold so dear that a woman can completely fabricate charges against a good man and the law will blindly believe her - and no, it does not help that this notion is presented by a director whose tone suggests that he has sympathy for the woman in question.
The oddest, most inexplicable part of this film though, is the narrative device involving Sunny Wayne (in a weird hairstyle) and his flatmate in a foreign country. The two are present from beginning to end reading a blog about Kuttanad that is dominated by tales of Hariettan and through which the story of this film is unrolled. It makes no sense, and sticks out like a sore thumb.
If the idea was to up the cool quotient of the film, then the effect is just the opposite, because blogs by their very nature tend to be personal and intimate, a point that Sethu has evidently not grasped.
The screenplay of Oru Kuttanadan Blog does call for a certain smallness and intimacy in the narrative style but that is impossible to achieve if you cannot fully, completely and entirely get over the fact that you managed to cast Mammootty in your film. Sethu occasionally strikes the right tone and in those places he does offer insights into rural life that other filmmakers tend to avoid, for instance nixing our national tendency to romanticise village folk when an important character says that the people of Krishnapuram are far more appealing from a distance than when you are living with them. This point is dwarfed by the largeness the film aims for in other places, such as via a big fat wedding set piece complete with song and dance, or that other massive (albeit well choreographed) song and dance number Elampadi Elelo.
As a result, in addition to coming across as tired, Oru Kuttanadan Blog is also inconsistent. The only player in this film who sticks to his guns from start to finish is cinematographer Pradeep Nair who effectively portrays the beauty of Kuttanad without resorting to grand, overwhelming shots of this scenic Paradise. Sethu should have taken a leaf out of his book. Since he did not, Oru Kuttanadan Blog feels like a potentially intimate snapshot of rural Kerala photobombed by the mighty Mammootty and the director's own confusion over what he wanted it to be.
All images from YouTube.
Updated Date: Sep 16, 2018 11:48 AM