Once upon a time there lived a thief. One day, when the price of petrol was still only a little over Rs 70, he called it quits after a narrow escape from the cops. A few years later, the petrol price went up above the once-unimaginable Rs 100 a litre. By then a lot had happened in the life of the young man too – a lot of events that were otherwise unimaginable. Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s third directorial work – Nna Than Case Kodu (Sue Me) is quintessentially a modern folk tale with an intriguing plot, impressive characters and a lofty message. Yet what makes it a brilliant film is Poduval’s craft that caters to a new-age sensibility even as drawing immensely from a golden tradition of popular Malayalam cinema.
Like in his acclaimed debut Android Kunjappan, this time also Poduval comes up with a curious storyline and a set of strange characters who look fresh and appealing. Hence we have a clean entertainer that deserves its space among the powerful satires of Malayalam cinema. With an unbroken string of subtle humor, the film totally lives up to the pre-release hype triggered by a couple of trailers and the viral ‘Devadoothar’ dance.
“Nna Than Case Kodu” is a director’s film – one of the finest court dramas that is devoid of all the cliches that come with the ‘men in gown’ on the screen. Instead, the film has a maverick magistrate, a group of middle-aged lawyers who look so real and a “thief” who argues his own case. While the film is loaded with social criticism – light and heavy – what stands out is its subtle layer of emotions which is all about a helpless man’s fight to prove his innocence. It’s the same old David vs Goliath story set brilliantly in a north Kerala village and told through a set of genuine characters.
In the film, Poduval has regained the grip over his narrative, which he seemed to have lost somehow in his second outing ‘Kanakam Kamini Kalaham’. He has done an exceptionally good job in capturing the soul of the northern-most Kerala – the film happens in Kasaragod – with its dialect, rituals, music and politics. A theyyam performance, multiple political rallies and a giant red flag with a superimposed Che – they all add up to the film’s setting.
Poduval’s knack for sarcasm is all over the film – hence the arrogance of the political class and the helplessness of the common man look relatable. A woman chief minister from Kannur, fuel price as a chronology marker, a group of caricature-like politicians and a cop who moonlights as a Theyyam performer – the writer-director plays all cards up his sleeve to make the maximum out of the genre he has chosen this time. Most of them work out while some fail to make the desired impact.
The film must be a study in performance. Kunchacko Boban has just been unshackled from his comfort zones. He has succeeded in shouldering the weight of his character with ease while the film has a whole set of newcomers found in and around the region where the story takes place. Real-life lawyers Shukkur Cheenammadath and Gangadharan come face to face in the cinematic court and they don’t disappoint. However, it is PP Kunhikrishnan who steals the show as the witty lawyer. One may watch the film for his performance alone.
Apart from Kunchacko Boban, the star element in the movie is Gayathrie Shankar. As Rajeevan’s Tamil live-in partner, she has justified her casting.
The court scenes are the strength of the script even though they lose a bit of intensity towards the end. Had the director dared to cut the final shot, the film’s impact might have been more powerful. Well, that’s a highly subjective opinion.