'Kayyoppu', 'A Signature Work'
by Elizabeth Menon

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'Kayyoppu', 'A Signature Work'

One associates 'Signature' with ‘Proof of identity or intent, representing someone's name, nick name or even a simple 'X' that a person writes on a document; writer of a 'Signature' is a signatory and a 'Signature work or style' readily identifies its 'Creator’. When I heard about Ranjith's 'Kayyoppu', I was thinking about all the above, the 'Famous signatures' and the 'Signature work' of distinguished artists! Ranjith is the Signatory and the Creator of the film, but I was in for a great surprise, as it was like no other 'Signature' I had ever seen or heard of! This 'Kayyoppu' was any thing but a documented signature! He brings home the injustice in our society and exposes the suffering of innocent people and their lost dreams. Initially, One gets the impression that the film is all about the protagonist Balachandran, a laid back writer with a 'Writer's block' who works in a fertilizer firm and lives in a lodge, his 'Long lost beautiful friend' from his College days, the struggling publisher and his wife, the lodge- boy/manager, the young girl who is waiting for an operation, her ever suffering parents, a very efficient doctor and a few others here and there; nothing unusual! But only when the film rolls to the end, Ranjith lets the viewer into what 'Kayyoppu' is really about: An eye opener to the complex human nature and the atrocities it can create, if misguided. The directorial restraint was evident through the film, yet with a soft touch that was highly commendable; each person had something to contribute and there were no characters who didn't have to be there!

'Kayyoppu' was shown at the Barbican Centre in London as part of the 'Contemporary Kerala Festival', in front of a multi-national audience and everyone had only one thing to say, ''What a beautiful film''! The film starts with a special function where an eminent writer (Nedumudi Venu) talks about how an unfinished work of a 'Young writer', if and when finished, would take the world by storm! It was no surprise then that the 'Young writer' in question was Balachandran (Mammootty), who was among the audience. Later, One is ushered into Balachandran's room at the lodge, a room with books everywhere and hardly any place to sit! The struggling publisher of 'Kilippattu Books', Shivadasan (Mukesh) finds the unfinished manuscript among the books in Balachandran's room and a very excited Shivadasan calls his wife Lalitha (Neena Kurup) in the middle of the night to tell her of his 'Gold find'! Shivadasan tries to convince Balachandran that he must finish that great piece of work, but Balachandran, faced with a 'Writer's block', finds it an impossible task.

Then, as Balachandran is struggling with his mental block, there appears his 'Old flame, Padma', played by Khushboo. It has been said of Doris Day that she can light up a whole room with just her smile, but looking at this vision of beauty, I thought she could ignite a room just by her presence! It was quite obvious to Shivadasan and the audience that if anyone could cure Balachandran's 'Writer's block', this enigmatic, sensuous, whole woman, could do it even from a distance, throwing his mental block out of the window and rekindling the old passion! The chemistry between the two, in spite of the distance between them, was such that the audience felt it; the beautiful, expressive voice of Gayathri was perfect choice for Padma and the song was so apt! Ranjith could convey all this to the audience just by a few telephone conversations, yet again proving his directorial skills and I felt that he didn't even need that song in the frame to do that! The magic worked and Balachandran finishes the book, to the delight of Shivadasan who was hoping to publish it! Literature was not the only interest this writer shows in this film; he even sells his only property for the operation of a young girl after reading about it in a newspaper and also rescues Babu (Jaffar) from the police station, but not before retaliating against the Police brutality and injustice!

The choice of actors was so perfect and the acting potential of each actor was tried to the limit that the best acting was on display. Babu (Jaffar Idukki), the room-boy/manager and Balachandran's great help and his worse critic, has shown his acting potential in this film and the credit goes to Ranjith; he also gets Mukesh and Mamukkoya to bring out their best. Anoop Menon as Dr Jayshankar is very convincing as the Neurosurgeon and his young patient, Fathima (Lakshmi Menon) was excellent! Manoj Pillai's camera has absorbed every atom of beauty, be it Khushboo, her garden, the landscape or the ever so vivid face of Nilambur Ayeisha. Ranjith needed only a few moments to show the strength of a friendship between two women, Padma and her friend, and the importance of such relationships in anyone's life. Shivadasan and Lalitha's relationship in this film is delightful, showing the world that a husband and wife can still be friends and have fun; Ranjith's soft touch is on display, yet again! 'Mammootty' almost disappears on the screen and only Balachandran, the laid back writer, is in front of the audience, showing the greatness of this actor; but the sensuous, whole woman, Padma (Khushboo) steals the show!

'Kayyoppu' is so different from his previous films that one gets the feeling that this is the 'Signature style' of things to come from this director; but Ranjith tells me that he believes in the basic principle that prompted him to choose the title ' Kayyoppu': ''Signature' is the symbol of One's own identity that vanishes with the demise of that person''. But I believe that even after One is dead and all the people who knew him/her are dead too, if he/she had left something behind to be remembered or if that life did matter in any way, then that signature or signature style/work of that person will not vanish. Therefore, in my opinion, 'Kayyoppu' will remain as Ranjith's 'Signature work' for eternity!

The brilliance of the film and the restraint that was evident till the very end was such that I was reminded of Adoor and even a comparison to the Master is compliment in itself! A good film must touch something in the viewer and make him/her think, and I believe that 'Kayyoppu' has done both. The film rolls to the end with such restraint that the audience were suddenly forced to think of human nature and its complexities, the culmination of the dreams and aspirations of all those involved or the sad loss of it all! If at least a few of those who witnessed Ranjith's 'Kayyoppu' left the cinema pondering how they could help to prevent such atrocities in their neighborhood and elsewhere, irrespective of the other's religion or nationality, then the director of this beautiful thought provoking film has won!
© E Menon 2007

© E Menon



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