At the trailer launch of Kayamkulam Kochunni on June 9 in Kochi, actor Nivin Pauly described it as the biggest film of his career. Going by the trailer, Nivin has a point. The story unfolds in the pre-Independence era. The production design and the visuals are impressive, and there is Mohanlal, the highest billed actor in Malayalam, playing a supporting role as Ithikkara Pakki, a wayfarer who becomes Kochunni’s mentor.
While the question of whether the film has the capability to outperform the actor’s Premam at the box-office remains, Kayamkulam Kochunni is, by far, created on perhaps the grandest canvas Malayalam cinema has seen.
The film, directed by Rosshan Andrrews, comes 52 years after the release of the first reel adaptation of the legend of Kayamkulam Kochunni, founded on Kottarathil Shankunni’s collection of folklore, Aithihyamala. In the 1966 film, directed by PA Thomas, actor Sathyan played Kochunni, the dacoit, who was immensely popular among the downtrodden for his guerrilla techniques against the oppressive upper class. The film was an entertainer; a simplistic tale of the eternal fight between the good and the bad.
However, Andrrews’ film seems to be dealing with more elements. The trailer shows British officers and their country stooges launching a frantic manhunt. Also, there are references to the rigid caste system that ripped Kerala further apart. The high point of the trailer is in its final leg, where Mohanlal’s Ithikkara Pakki appears.
Talking about the film, Rosshan Andrrews told Silverscreen,
“We wanted to narrate this story on a huge canvas, putting in a lot of time and energy. We cast Mohanlal in a role because for a movie of this scale, his presence can be a vital support. Long ago, we had movies like Padayottam and now we saw big-budget films like Pulimurgan grossing big numbers at box-office inside as well as outside Mollywood’s traditional markets. Small-budget films like Premam and Drishyam became popular outside the state, thanks to their novel content. Through Kayamkulam Kochunni, we are trying to tell a quintessential Malayali tale in a novel way, with perfect production design and technology. Most of the cost of production went into recreating the period.”
In the film, Priya Anand plays a Dalit girl who falls for Kochunni. While she clearly looks like an aberration in the trailer, one can only hope that hers is a well-written character that compensates for the cringe that her urbane looks and dubbing artiste Raveena Ravi’s slightly anglicized Malayalam evoke.
Also starring in the film are Sunny Wayne, Sudheer Karamana and Babu Antony. Cinematographer Binod Pradhan, composer Gopi Sunder and veteran editor Sreekar Prasad are part of the project, which is produced by Gokulam Gopalan. This is Gokulam Movies’ second period drama project, after Pazhassi Raja in 2009.
Watch the trailer here: