Kumbalangi Nights Review: A new benchmark in minimalistic storytelling
After the success of ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’ and ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’, the trio of Dileesh Pothan, Syam Pushkaran and Fahadh Faasil are back; this time with a family drama titled ‘Kumbalangi Nights’. Unlike in the previous two films, the trio’s roles are different this time. They are jointly producing the movie under the banners of Working Class Hero and Fahadh Faasil and Friends. Syam Pushkaran has also written the script and Fahadh is playing a crucial role in it. Okay, let’s jump straight to the review.
First things first, Syam Pushkaran, the scribe who has aced the technique of minimalistic writing, has taken his game to the next level with ‘Kumbalangi Nights’. On the base level, it’s a story about four brothers with an endearing romance track at its core. One could conceive this subject in numerous ways but being the brilliant writer that he is, Syam Pushkaran decides to give it a flavour that’s very unique and yet delightful. The closest that I’ve seen any Indian film exploring the relationship dynamics of a dysfunctional family is ‘Kapoor & Sons’ but apart from that, these two films have nothing else in common.
It’s not very often that we see all the departments of filmmaking gelling together perfectly and ‘Kumbalangi Nights’ is a classic in that sense. Debutant director Madhu C Narayanan knows his craft and that’s evident from the way he has marshalled his troops to come up with a near flawless film. The screenplay is loaded with metaphors and very clear political statements, but they never hit you on the face. Every character has a proper sketch and meticulous attention has been given not to spoon-feed the audience — which is a true sign of respecting the viewer’s sensibilities.
On the performance side, Shane Nigam, Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi and Mathew Thomas as the brothers couldn’t have played their parts any better. Shane has finally come out of his shell of his depressed characters and let himself free. The funny counter dialogues between these four characters seem perfectly spontaneous, which speaks volumes about the chemistry they share. Soubin is a real revelation and, for me, he is the film’s stand out performer.
Debutante Anna Ben (Babymol), the girl with the most genuine smile, is a real find and has plenty more to offer. One can never get tired of talking about the awesomeness of Fahadh Faasil. Watch this film and you’ll know why. As the ‘complete-man’ Shammi, he gives us chills down the spine just with his eerie smile and casual stares. Simply put, in a league of his own, Fahadh still occupies at the top slot.
Shjyu Khalid’s excellent cinematography captures the mood and serenity of Kumbalangi. It’s like he just fixed a camera somewhere around his characters and simply follow them. He understands the medium so well and uses it as a mere tool for storytelling and not to simply showcase the wide range of he possesses. Sushin Shyam’s music is a healer and there’s a particular stanza, which is so aptly placed in the narrative, that was greeted with loud cheers by the housefull audience.
In a nutshell, Kumbalangi Nights is a slow burner that takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions while subtly addressing several issues and ultimately giving us a rewarding climax. The film doesn’t try to explore the culture or lifestyle of the Kumbalangi natives in-depth, instead it takes us on a casual stroll around in the backwaters from where we can feel and relate to the lives of the people there; from a Saji to a Shammi to a Prashanthan.