‘Kolaambi’  review: Poignant ode to bygone eras

Express News Service

Kolaambi begins with a moment, or rather, a mood that journalists in Kerala would find relatable. It’s the time of the Kochi biennale for which Nithya Menen’s Arundathi comes to Mattancherry. It’s that time when our colleagues wax eloquent about the unique stories they’ve done, of fascinating individuals and their way of life. The film opens with Nithya coming across the story of a couple (Renji Panicker and Rohini) on the cover of a magazine. When she lands at their home, she finds a journalist in the middle of an interview. Though fictional, Kolaambi does feel like one of the many stories that catch a curious journalist’s fancy. However, director TK Rajeev Kumar goes beyond the imagination of a journalist. 

What’s extraordinary about this couple and their residence? It’s their unique ‘coffee shop’. All you have to do is go in, write down a song—a classic one, mind you—and you get a cup of coffee. Rohini makes the coffee, Renji picks the record. The stove and gramophone lay side by side, producing food for the soul. Kolaambi, or to be more specific, the couple’s home, is a time capsule. It’s a heartwarming ode to a lost time. It shows that revisiting old memories can be soothing and painful in equal measure. And Renji and Rohini infuse their characters with enough warmth and humanity that you feel like you know them already.

They don’t need words to convey their history. It’s all evident in their demeanour and the things they surround themselves with. The film’s title refers to an inanimate object—the loudspeaker —but, as Kolaambi shows, even lifeless objects hold much significance given their involvement in some of the most notable moments in history, as conveyed to us when Renji takes a trip down memory lane. In another scene, Vijay Yesudas shows up (as himself) looking for a microphone that captured his father’s voice in his first stage appearance.

One might question the significance of some of its secondary characters to the main story, but I believe that is not necessarily what the film wants to do. The interest, perhaps, is to present a portrait of human behaviour. For instance, Dileesh Pothan appears as a bank professional tasked with executing foreclosure, but he is not depicted as a ‘bad guy’ even when his tone is sarcastic. In one comical scene, we see him taking lessons in classical music, but he sucks terribly at it. And Kolaambi gives P Balachandran a moving scene, its impact heightened by the knowledge of the veteran actor’s demise recently. 

Kolaambi, streaming currently on the newly launched MTalkie, is one of those films where the art, photography, music and sounds work together in perfect unison. Sabu Cyril’s production design effectively evokes memories of bygone eras. Ravi Varman seems to have had a lot of fun capturing everything in nostalgia-inducing 4:3 ratio, with the characters occasionally bathed in amber lighting or illuminated by available lights or partly obscured by shadows. The characters are composed in a manner that places them in the corners or the bottom of the frame with enough space to occupy the background details. 

Kolaambi is not just a portrait of a couple in their twilight years impacting Arundathi’s life or vice versa, but also of an array of multi-cultural characters in their neighbourhood. And picking a place like Mattancherry is apt considering its significance as a meeting place for people from various backgrounds and nationalities.

Film: Kolaambi
Director: TK Rajeev Kumar
Cast: Nithya Menen, Renji Panicker, Rohini, Dileesh Pothan, Baiju, P Balachandran
Streaming on: MTalkie

Rating: 3.5/5

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