Director : Jeo Baby
The nuances of relationships and personal predicaments are what make Kaathal The Core an engaging watch. No dramatics, no monologues, and no high-intensity courtroom scenes, and yet you feel what the characters are feeling.
Malayalam cinema is a class apart, for the first half of the film is so delicately woven, if you get it, you get it, if you don’t, then it doesn’t scream out the obvious to you. The story is layered, you find out things one after the other, nothing shocking but just the right revelation at the right time makes you wonder how beautifully storytelling can feel.
Omana and Mathew have been married for 20 years and have a 19-year-old daughter studying in college. From the first scene at the church, one wonders why there isn’t a crackling chemistry between the two leads of the film. As the movie progresses, you understand that it’s intentional. They have drifted apart, or have always been apart in their marriage. They have genuine concern for each other, love for family, and are duty-bound individuals but what they don’t have is companionship. When Mathew stands as a candidate for the by-election, Omana files for divorce from him. What happens next, what are her grounds for divorce, will they, won’t they? All these questions form the plot of the movie.
If you’ve seen the director’s previous film, Great Indian KItchen, you know the pace of the film will be slow at first. It’s heavy with exchanges and conversations in the first half but it’s not Mammootty or Jyothika doing the talking. There are very few dialogues spoken by them, mere glances and expressions bucketloads of volumes. Only actors of this caliber can pull off something so complicated with so much simplicity and sincerity.
Jyothika is one of the best performers we have in our country, she can mold herself into any character she plays. Here, she is Omana, a woman who wants to divorce her husband and set them both free from the shackles of society. She is a woman who has given her all, knowing that she would never find that reciprocation of love from her husband. There is mutual respect, understanding, and a friendship that’s born out of familiarity and proximity. She knows his truth, she wants him to find happiness as much as she wants to live her life on her terms.
Mammootty, even at age 70 is redefining star power. He gives you a brilliant and massy Kannur Squad one month and a subtle yet powerful performance in Kaathal- the core. He is unafraid to take risks and stand by it. At an age where most other stars are refusing to give up their ‘ superstar’ status, he is on top of the game bringing out stories that make an impact and performances that he will forever be known for. There is a scene in the film where he speaks to his father, a relationship that is evidently strained and leaves the audience with a lump in their throat. It’s a mere exchange of questions, when Mammootty asks, “ What wrong have I done?”, you feel the helplessness in that one dialogue, and how years of not accepting his true identity have brought him to this point in life. Mathew is a man of few words, you feel the guilt and baggage he is carrying.
The courtroom scenes are a delight to watch, Chinnu Chandini and Muthumani are simply amazing as the two lawyers standing on opposing sides. As actors, they are one of the biggest revelations in the movie.
The story has two very important aspects that it touches. It points out the struggles of coming out for a man who lives in a small town and a conventional society. The other is something that is not discussed very often in films, the plight of the other person in a marriage that is devoid of physical intimacy and romantic love. There are instances in the film that tugs at your heartstrings, when Omana asks Mammooty if he thinks she filed for a divorce for just her freedom, they both break down. He knows that she is fighting for not just her to be free from the marriage, but for him to be free of societal constraints.
2023 has been a year of blockbuster massy films, but the true winners this year are movies like these, narratives that leave an impact, and emotions so raw and real, that you are instantly connected.
Rating : 4/5