Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Sue Me!)
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that you never see Kunchacko Boban in the film

Nna Thaan Case Kodu review: Kunchacko Boban lifts this taut court drama

Starting out as the campus heartthrob with Fazil’s Aniyathipravu in 1997, Kunchacko Boban has been a steady fixture in Malayalam cinema for 25 years.

Lately, the actor has been less averse to experimenting, reflected in his choice of films and characters, including his previous release, Pada. But Kunchacko’s biggest impediment as an actor is his urban accent, which always came through in his dialogue delivery even when he played earthy characters, including Pada. And hence this reviewer was ardently waiting to see how Chackochan, as Kunchacko is better known, played a Kasaragod native of all characters in Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Sue Me!).

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that you never see Kunchacko Boban in the film. Playing a reformed thief trying to lead an honourable life, Boban lives the role of Kozhummal Rajeevan, even getting his accent right, albeit with the aid of prosthetics. With his oiled hair combed back, revealing a balding pate, Boban really gets into his character to headline a cast made up mostly of newcomers cast locally, thus making the melee as authentic as possible.

Nna Thaan Case Kodu is set in Cheemeni in Hosdurg Taluk, in and around Kanhangad, part of the undivided Kannur district, south of the Chandragiri river which served as the traditional border between Kerala and Karnataka.

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Director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Pothuval, who debuted with the widely appreciated Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 (2019), is a local who knows the topography and the people and he makes full use of his expertise. A few minutes into the movie, you are teleported to Cheemeni as you felt with Maheshinte Prathikaram (2016) and Sudani From Nigeria (2018) where Idukki and Malappuram formed part of the narrative.

There are few known faces, including Rajesh Madhavan, who hails from Kasaragod and also serves as the film’s casting director. The accent might feel a bit strange and confusing for the urbane viewer, but within a few minutes, you get the hang of it. The film is essentially a courtroom drama, set at the Hosdurg Magistrate Court, where the judge’s attention oscillates between the pigeons marking their attendance from the windowsills above and the arguments of lawyers. Debutante PP Kunhikrishnan is delightful in this pivotal part as a magistrate, performing with the ease of a veteran.

There are many eccentric characters, making you wonder if it’s an inherent trait among these people or if it’s dramatized for the screen. The lawyers and court proceedings come across as fairly authentic, perhaps aided by the fact that some of the actors marking their debuts play their real-life professions in the film, including Advocate Shukkoor. Gayathrie Shankar marks her debut in Malayalam cinema playing a Tamil character, as someone who constantly pushes her live-in partner (Rajeevan) to wage an unlikely battle against the state Public Works Department (PWD) minister.

Political ‘heat’ over the film

Nna Thaan Case Kodu is a very political film, occasionally conveying things without being too explicit, something only people familiar with Kerala might relate to. But director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Pothuval generally plays safe by depicting the minister at the centre of the controversy as a nominee of the alliance partner of the ruling front. That a chief minister would give the go-ahead for the prosecution of a cabinet minister is really unlikely in present-day politics, but that is only a minor quibble.

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The film made a lot of news on the day of its release on account of the caption “be sure to reach theatres despite potholes on the roads” on its poster, touching a raw nerve with the supporters of the ruling Left regime in Kerala. Of late, a controversy had been brewing after the Kerala High Court took the state to task on account of the poor upkeep of the roads. While PWD minister PA Mohammed Riyas, also the son-in-law of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, was overtly defensive and passed the buck to the Centre by referring to the pitiable state of the National Highways in Kerala, the Opposition had a field day when Left fellow travellers vowed to boycott the film on account of the posters.

As it turned out, the caption was only fitting as the film’s plot revolves around a common man taking on the system after coming at the receiving end of potholes on Kerala roads. Minister Riyas made a public statement disowning the attack on the film by Left trolls on social media by the afternoon of the film’s release. What is ironic is that many among the cast and crew of the film are Left supporters themselves (by their own admission), including casting director Rajesh Madhavan, said to be a Communist Party of India (Marxist) member earlier.

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This reviewer found theatres in Kochi houseful during the weekend. Having missed the initial few minutes, which are quite crucial to the narrative, I went back to watch the film a second time, this time in Muvattupuzha and found the theatre packed to the rafters. Another thing that interested me was the fact that generally, there was pin-drop silence in these theatres but for the occasional laugh people couldn’t help, an indication of how the audience was glued on to what was unfolding before them – unless it was down to the accent.

Lately, there has been a dip in footfall for theatres on account of the burgeoning OTT platforms and the quality of content available at the press of a button but films such as Nna Thaan Case Kodu will benefit from the maxim that “all publicity is good publicity” and word-of-mouth publicity thereafter. The film has been shot on sync sound like Sudani From Nigeria and that elevates the authenticity of the experience.

On the evidence of this film (and Android Kunjappan earlier), Ratheesh Balakrishnan Pothuval might have a lot to offer to Malayalam cinema, particularly as someone who writes his own scripts. The humour is spot on, except for one too many ‘bum’ jokes throughout. Kunchacko Boban is a revelation and there are cameos by the likes of Unnimaya Prasad and Basil Joseph. Apart from judge Kunhikrishnan and advocate Shukoor, I found the debutante playing a police officer who doubles up as a Theyyam artiste particularly enchanting. For someone who was a casting director, Rajesh Madhavan’s character is the most oddball among the assortment of actors on screen.

The BGM is striking, although I found out it sticking out in a couple of scenes – maybe it’s on account of the heavy influence of western BGMs in Malayalam cinema recently. The cinematography is decent enough. As for the verdict, one can only say – Nna Thaan Poyi Cinema Kanu (Go watch the movie)!

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