Appearances can be deceptive. Actor-turned-director Muhammed Musthafa’s debut film ‘Kappela’ cautions viewers on this point with a simple story set in Poovarmala of Waynaad.
Many people did not get a chance to watch the movie when it released in cinemas back in March, mere days before the restrictions that shut cinemas down across the globe. The film has been given a new lease on life on Netflix.
Jessy (Anna Ben) lives with her orthodox parents and younger sister. Her father is a farmer trying to make ends meet and supported by her mother who undertakes tailoring orders. Jessy assists her mother in stitching.
An accidental call to a wrong number changes Jessy’s life. Vishnu (Roshan Mathew), an auto driver from Mallapuram, takes the wrong call and pursues Jessy over the phone. She is drawn towards his voice and as their conversations become regular, she falls in love with Vishnu.
Benny (Sudhi Koppa), a young man from the neighbourhood, loves Jessy as well. He approaches her parents for her hand in marriage. As their wedding is fixed, Jessy decides to meet Vishnu. She leaves for Kozhikode alone one morning where Vishnu will meet her at the bus stop. Incidentally, Jessy and Vishnu have not shared their pictures since Jessy uses an old phone and cannot afford a smart phone.
Do the lovers meet as planned?
‘Kappela’s’ writing and screenplay with well-sketched characters is its biggest strength. The narration is simple, the mood and tone rooted in reality, conversations are real as the story glides smoothly like a well-oiled machine lending a fly on the wall experience. And, you soon invest in Jessy’s life.
The casting is pitch perfect and lead actors Anna Ben, Roshan Mathew and Sreenath Bhasi are fantastic. Unsophisticated, simple and living on the high ranges of Waynaad, Jessy’s big dream is to see the sea. What’s beautiful about Malayalam cinema is the natural look the actresses sport. As a performer, Anna Ben is growing with each film. This is her third film. Her Jessie easily finds a place in our hearts. Ben’s well balanced play of emotions brings alive this small town young woman-vulnerable and gullible.
Vishnu with a red pottu on his forehead always is the perfect picture of that friendly guy in the neighbourhood whom people seek in times of distress. Mathew had quite a challenging role there. And he is brilliant, never going overboard with his expressions.
A stark contrast to Vishnu is Roy (Sreenath Bhasi). This unemployed graduate is job hunting and has no qualms about removing his cousin Annie’s ring in order to pawn it for his requirements. With his cocky mannerisms and tough attitude, Roy is not someone you will warm up to soon. He enters the lives of Jessy and Vishnu at Kozhikode. Bhasi has been experimenting with varied roles and his versatility comes to the fore again.
Musthafa has acted in several supporting roles and received special mention by the national jury for his role in ‘Ain.’ He too has a small role here. Suddhi Koppa’s Benny is not easily forgotten. He is that sweet guy you wouldn’t want to hurt.
Little details make the scenes real and relatable-an old woman asks the bus conductor to let her know when her stop arrives while the passenger in the seat behind Jessie tells her lower down the shutter in the rains. That Jessie’s parents are orthodox is told through scenes-Jessy’s younger sister gets a real thrashing for pillion riding on a bicycle with her school mate who belongs to the opposite sex.
Without resorting to melodrama nor screaming out a social message, ‘Kappela’ reveals the danger that is there for all to see. A poignant scene is when a disillusioned Jessy asks Roy, like a child, ‘Will you show me the beach?’.
Cinematographer Jhimsi Khalid’s visuals are spectacular. The opening scene is beautiful, as two friends under an umbrella brave the rains to reach a bus-stop. Poovarmala is caught at its rustic best. And, the kappela (chapel) which Jessy frequents is now reduced to a basic shrine of Mother Mary perched on a mountain, yet seems to hold an enigmatic power over the little town below. That closing shot was spectacular.
Don’t miss it!
‘Kappela’ is now streaming on Netflix