“Kammara Sambhavam”… An overlong, but cleverly written and entertaining meta-masala movie

Posted on April 15, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/kammara-sambhavam-movie-review-dileep-baradwaj-rangan/

Rathish Ambat’s Kammara Sambhavam (Kammara’s Event, a play on the title of the Kalidasa epic) begins and ends with a quote attributed to Napoléon: “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” Napoléon certainly popularised this adage, though he denied coining it — but in the context of this film, the (intended?) misattribution may be entirely appropriate. The story is about how history is nothing but a series of “lies,” and how these lies, over time, become calcified as “truth.” It sounds like a thesis topic for a philosophy major, but the film, slyly written by Murali Gopy, is pretty entertaining — even if it takes a while to get going, and a longer while for the whole picture to come together in our heads. At interval point, I was still unsure, but soon, Gopy’s design becomes clear. The first half is the (actual) history. The second half is the lie that becomes history.

The film begins in the present day, as liquor barons belonging to the Indian Liberation Party (Indian Libation Party may have sounded better, no?) express their frustration with the frequent bouts of prohibition. They hatch a crazy scheme. They will produce a movie about a long-forgotten Kerala hero — as in, a real-life hero, from the British era — and project the film’s protagonist as their party’s flag bearer, thus rebranding their identity in the eyes of the public. They approach a Tamil filmmaker named Pulikesi (Bobby Simha). Why Tamil? Because Malayali directors are too Left or Right. Is this a jibe about the strongly political leanings of Malayali filmmakers, or the perceived lack of politics in the Tamil filmmaking community? Questions like these are what make the film fun. Wait till you get to the digs on dynastic politics, about “Pappu” as well as his great-grandfather’s rumoured closeness with Lady Mountbatten.

The real-life hero, named Kammaran Nambiar and now aged 96, is played by Dileep (in top form). The actor playing Kammaran Nambiar on screen is… the actor Dileep. In other words, the off-screen Dileep plays himself on screen, an actor who plays a movie character based on Kammaran Nambiar, who’s played by… Dileep. And the meta games begin. Was Bobby Simha cast because he was in Jigarthanda, another movie about a man whose story makes it to screen as a series of “lies”? A similar case could be made for Siddarth (in the most forceful performance of his career), who plays Othenan Nambiar. The actor was not only in Jigarthanda, but also in Rang De Basanti, which was about… a movie being made about events from the British era.

Continued at the link above.

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