Nna Thaan Case Kodu (NTCK) meaning “then, you file a case” is a film rooted in the nativity of Kerala. You can make this out from the title itself which is a very colloquial line in Malayalam challenging someone to “put” a case on you. The setting of the film which is a small town in North Kerala, the predominant dialect in the film, the characters, the communist symbols, the happenings, in short, the look, feel and theme of the film are all soaked in nativity. In all of India, it is only in Malayalam cinema that you will get to see a Che Guevara poster, I can assure you.
NTCK is a light-hearted satire that gets serious as it proceeds. The story is about a petty thief played by a fine Kunjacko Boban who gets mired in a theft case in which he is not involved. While arguing in the local court to get himself out of the case, he pulls in a series of other accused unwittingly, ending up with the PWD minister himself. Boban claims that the PWD minister is deemed responsible for leaving a road with a huge pothole, which sets a chain of events leading to Boban’s jumping into a house in the middle of the night thereby becoming a theft accused. Expectedly, a narrative like this endears itself to a lot of wit and humour and the first half of the film revels in that.
This sort of narrative, that too in a small town also brings in a lot of side characters which makes the film interesting. However, the same points that work for the film in the first half weigh it down in the second. The quirks get repetitive. The humour gets predictable. The film begins to drag. Towards the climax, it picks up again but, by that time you already are restless and want to get it done with. But for this stretch in the second half, the film is by and large engaging. The happenings in the court and the behaviour of some of the characters in these scenes are hilarious.
Apart from the wry humour and the writing, NTCK is held together by some top-notch performances that too by the supporting cast, the stand out of which is K.P.Kunhikrishnan, who, as the Judge or Magistrate in the local court steals the show in every frame with his body language and dialogue delivery. Boban is earnest in his portrayal of the wronged common man who takes up the fight on his shoulders. Gayathrie Shankar as his Tamil-speaking partner also plays her part as the fiery woman to the T.
Director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval focuses on simple storytelling and getting the cast right with most of them being first-timers. He smartly uses cult songs like Aayiram Kannumaai… and Devadhoothar paadi… to great effect thereby introducing these iconic songs to a new generation. The film treads on a few areas that would provoke a call for boycott bans if it was Bollywood! Luckily, Malayalam cinema is not yet infected with the boycott virus and so can get away with this brazenness for now. The Director tries to be over smart by using symbols like petrol price chart to indicate the timeline of incidents in the film but these are K.Balachandar era tropes which don’t land with the intentional effect.
While promoting the film, the makers raked up a controversy when the film’s poster said “There is a pothole on the way, yet you must come and watch”. While watching the film and in particular at the end which has an ironic twist, you will understand the significance of the pothole reference.
If you are a fan of simple, rooted Malayalam cinema bereft of stars and their antics, Nna Thaan Case Kodu is a good one-time watch, the slackness in the middle notwithstanding. Malayalam cinema continues to be a flag bearer of realistic cinema that’s not dependent on the stars to give a big opening. After a successful theatrical run, Nna Thaan Case Kodu streaming now on Disney Hotstar.