KAAPA is yet another Malayalam movie that has Prithviraj Sukumaran in the lead. One wonders how he is able to churn movies in an assembly line fashion in quick succession these days. Or is it the pent-up films that were stuck due to Covid and now getting completed and released? In any case, Prithiviraj fans will not complain.
The film is directed by veteran director Shaji Kailas who in my opinion for the good or bad has been responsible for the “massification” of Malayalam films. Having started his career by making slick good films based on current affairs and earning a name, the graph of Kailas started going up when he switched to action films. He turned the “class” image of Malayalam films into a “Mass” image and even changed a Class hero Mohanlal into a Mass and Masala hero. But beyond a point, the formulaic mass action films with their focus on slow motion shots, low camera angles, swooshing background sounds and repeated one-liners masquerading as mass dialogues without any attention to the storyline, became repetitive and his films started bombing. He is now back recently with Kaduva and now KAAPA clearly proving that a tiger cannot change its stripes but age can slow it down.
In KAAPA, Shaji Kailas tries to make amends by taking up a very interesting author-backed story but in its treatment makes it all about the hero and thereby falters in the execution. I didn’t quite understand the meaning of the title KAAPA till I watched the film. KAAPA stands for Kerala Ant-Social Activities Act as we are told right at the beginning. As we begin to wonder if it is yet another film based on real-life news events, we realise that it is yet another gangster film but with a difference. The difference is not just the fact that it is set in Trivandrum but also the way the story gets a twist in the end. In order not to give away any spoilers, I am not getting into too much detail except for saying that much of the film is consumed by inter-gang rivalry and the typical “Mumbai don” type antics that we have all seen in many films now in the post Nayagan era. The climax has a Nayagan end like twist but not exactly.
For Prithviraj, who is playing the role of the Don, this is a walk-in-the-park role. He does a repeat act of some of the recent films like Kaduva, Theerpu, etc in terms of body language, dialogue delivery, and overall performance. The roles of the female leads Anna Ben and Aparna Balamurali promise a lot but get waylaid probably at the editing table. The second lead, Asif Ali gets a lot of space and he does a good job.
KAAPA starts well, sags in the middle and ends well. The violence in the film is gruesome and heavy. There is no time spent on building the character of Prithviraj and so we cannot make out of he is Nallavara, Kettavara… He keeps brooding and referring to the past in passing but we don’t get it. In our eyes, we see him as a criminal don only. If only, the screenplay had given attention to fleshing the gangster portion differently instead of the usual action-reaction trope, the film would have been a great watch. Now it ends up being an O.K watch. It is streaming on Netflix.
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