Men, maleness, masculinity and family in ‘Kumbalangi Nights’

Posted on February 25, 2019


Read the full article on Film Companion, here:

The many facets of an intricate drama from director Madhu C Narayanan and writer Syam Pushkaran. (Be warned. Spoilers ahead.)

If we were still in the days of video libraries, this is how you’d find the classiest entertainers. Head to the Malayalam section. Look for films whose titles begin with the name of a place, followed by a plural noun. You’re set. Bangalore Days. Angamaly Diaries. And now, first-timer Madhu C Narayanan’s Kumbalangi Nights, which unfolds in an islet in the outskirts of Kochi. These films are distinguished by an organic sensibility that seeps into every aspect of the filmmaking, right down to the title font. The opening credits of Kumbalangi Nights feature a “Title Font Design” card, and you see how important this is — this gradation of colour from yellow through green to blue — in capturing the film’s mood and tone and feel. These “new gen” films are filled with ensemble casts, and there’s something heart-warmingly democratic about how everyone comes together. You have stars playing characters. You have character actors in star-making turns. There are established performers whose names you know. There are newcomers who are so good, you want to know what their names are. (Yes, Anna Ben, I am talking about you.)

One of the known faces in Kumbalangi Nights is Soubin Shahir, who plays Saji and is one of the country’s finest actors today. I’m not going to bore you with a list of great acting moments. I’ll leave you with just one, the scene after a tragedy where Saji is cautioned by a cop (Dileesh Pothan, in a blink/miss appearance indicative of how the “new gen” directors, too, are back-slappingly democratic about each other’s films). It would have been easier for Saji to weep for the life lost, or clutch the inspector’s hands in gratitude for being let off with a warning. What Soubin does (and these choices may have come from the filmmakers as well) is more difficult. He shows you someone who’s still processing the tragedy that just occurred, still trying to come to terms with it. You know the phrase “in a daze”? This look is it.

Continued at the link above.

Copyright ©2019 Film Companion.