I had a gut feeling that this would be a great film. The trailers and promos were on a style of their own. With a premise that was not that common in Tamil cinema. I was betting on how good this would be. It did turn out to be great but for reasons I did not think of. With Nayanthara killing it with her solo streak in Tamil cinema, Kolamavu Kokila is that kind of film that has something to offer for all kinds of audiences.
The well defined characters are what bring the film together. I came out of the theater with so many different characters running in my mind and I don’t remember the last time a film made me do that. It is just a film about a middle class family who gets mixed up with drug smuggling and how they deal with it. There already is a lot of potential for comedy and uniqueness in the way it is handled. But Nelson doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t want the rest of the people on screen to just be fillers. Even if people don’t really move the story forward, they have a well written personality. There is a dwarf who is fed up with his job of being the caretaker of the head of smugglers who broke his neck in a fight off screen. A bunch of goons who are not really satisfied with what they do but still keep doing it. An assistant for a big shot who has a very gentle and consensual way of recruiting people to be his boss’s keep. A sister who doesn’t care about anything. An eccentric goon who always wears a wig and who thinks he has control over his boss (who apparently is a big fan of Pablo Escobar) because the boss took advantage of his sister, loses his eccentricity along with the wig during climax. Though all these seem to be written for comedic relief, they form such a rich bunch of personalities that move the otherwise normal story forward.
I see this has a superhero film where Kokila’s special power is that she knows when people are trying to take advantage of her and how to convert that situation to her advantage. Kokila is breaking bad because of her mom’s cancer. She is innocent. She is just looking for ways to help her mother. She uses her special power to save her mom. Every time they get tangled in a situation that would seem to us as a viewer as a deadlock, she always finds something that would save them. They might not be morally good ways. but they do the job. And as always, the superhero always completes her mission in terms of their own morality. She evolves as a character with every roadblock she comes across on her journey towards breaking bad.
What I couldn’t really cope my head around is how fast the family also broke bad. It took a long and difficult journey for Kokila to drop her armour and start smuggling drugs but all that it took for the family was that her daughter was in danger. For comedic relief, this abrupt character arc works amazingly well but not really otherwise. But the characters with flat arc, like Yogi Babu’s and the other guy who is in love with Kokila’s sister, continue to stay in character, given any situation. A serious villain, who means business no matter what, is threatening them and they still continue to stay in character. Nothing breaks them. A true flat character arc.
Even the scenes which don’t really move the story forward, didn’t seem off for me because of the way they were used to establish the characters. The screenplay ties up the whole experience really well. I love how there was so many slomo scenes of Nayanthara just walking along the roads with her backpack, like a little homage to all the mass films we’ve scene till date. And the distinctive brown and green colour palette for the coming of age gangster houses (an homage to Aaranya Kaandam?). The long shot following the guy who distributes tea in the police station which introduces us to the environment there, a small hat tip to Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru. A family killing off people one by one like they do in Yudham sei? Nelson has got his inspirations right. And how good is Anirudh when working in his comfort zone! Except for Kalyana Vayasu, the songs enhance the scenes so amazingly well. Kabiskabaa and Gun-in Kadhal establish the mass-ness in the mass scenes. He gives the right adrenaline we need for the right scenes.
Kolamavu kokila was everything that I wanted it to be and much more. I laughed my ass off for most of the film. I stayed in awe for most of the film. It tested my intelligence. It introduced me to many new characters which I never would have known in my life otherwise. There are a lot of could have been, maybe if it was like this but I could overlook all that for a film that has so much to give.