A movie mixed in equal parts with romance and intrigue, artistic vibes and gloom, but found wanting in the making department.
Directed by Arun Bose
Starring Tovino Thomas, Ahaana Krishna
Rating 2.5 /5
The opening credits roll by with beautiful visuals and background music, showing a man on a bike in heavy rain – the man is a cop investigating the death of an artist and the rain, his constant companion. When the movie opens, Luca - the eponymous hero played by Tovino Thomas, is already dead. The cop, Akbar - played by Nithin George, takes stock of the situation and gets the investigation rolling. The investigation follows the stories of Luca and Niharika through the journals of Niharika. Akbar, as we find out later, is entangled in his own weakly explained personal struggle. He has decided to “give divorce” to his wife because he is unable to forget his ex and would like to set the wife free. Wife is compliant with Akbar’s wishes as they are also good friends as he keeps reiterating.
Cut to Luca.
Luca is a reasonably successful artist and has a brilliant installation at the Kochi Biennale, built all from trash over months of effort and is a beautiful exhibit. Niharika, an industrial chemistry PhD student in Kochi as part of her research, walks in with zero knowledge or taste and well, trashes it. The artist overhears this and quibbles and tada, hero meets heroine. This is so relatable though; people with little insight dissing masterpieces being my current pet peeve and all. *rolls eyes*
Anyway, what matters is that they meet, her a precocious, hard-nosed girl and him, a dreamer and childlike. In a classical case of opposites attract, they fall in love, but not before an endearing friendship. Now here’s a relationship arc that can be tagged #relationshipgoals. The ‘Ore Kannal’ song is a happy, peppy number set to beautiful visuals which brings alive the artsy vibes of Luca’s world and introduces it to Niha as well as the audience. Music and camera are two nicely executed departments in this movie.
All is not hunky dory in their world and they have their own personal demons to battle.
Niharika was sexually abused as a child by her maternal uncle and it is portrayed through a telling depiction of the child’s trauma and confusion. It is this bitterness that forces her into a shell as she struggles to deal with the ordeal all by herself. Niharika’s encounters with her abuser changes in nature overtime as she slowly learns to stand up for herself and is able to better take care of herself. Her dilemma though at having to act normal around her abuser in order to keep the secret from her mother, to whom he is a pillar of strength, is a reflection of her sad reality. How tragic it is when a child has to grow up before its time and lose out on childhood in order to protect the parent from emotional distress. Could this also be why girls mature faster than boys, not because it’s the law of nature but it simply is never safe enough for a girl child?
Later when the investigators learn about her travails from her journal, the assistant who is also an adoptive parent is incensed and seethes resoundingly, “If ever a child’s face is dull, the parents get so anxious thinking about what could be the matter. Then how can blood relatives do this to a child? And how can the parents not know ??”.
Luca, on the other hand, struggles from phobias and panic attacks – he is phobic to death and anything related to it. He is shown to be disturbed after seeing a dead fish and faints after seeing a dead body. His condition is explained to have been triggered by seeing his father’s suicide as a child and his mother’s sudden demise in the recent past. Art is his escape and therapy from such debilitating mental health issues. These two discordant souls fall into perfect sync and become each other’s support systems in a short period of time.
Through it all, Luca shines as a sweet and romantic yet vulnerable and dependent person who is at times protected by his stronger girlfriend. As a friend, he makes her feel welcome in his house and his world but the doors are left open because it is her decision whether to stay or not. As a lover, he has no qualms in openly admitting that there are more chances of her leaving him than the other way around. And under difficult circumstances, he chooses for her to leave rather than stay and suffer with him. In our mind-fucked world of acid attacks and other revenge crimes in the name of love, and obsessive, toxic relationships as espoused by the movie Kabir Singh, Luca is hope. Luca shows us a love that’s selfless, tender and enriching.
To people who say Kabir Singh is just a movie, don’t over analyze it – it’s regressive enough to not want to take a second look, thank you very much. But bear with me a second. Contrast the relationships portrayed in both movies. Here, there is friendship and getting to know each other phase, personal space and freedom, and a relationship on equal terms. In Kabir Singh, he decides straight away about their relationship and warns all the other guys away, she sleepwalks into it, there is emotional abuse and (lots of) substance abuse, and basically an owner-doormat relationship. In the first case, characters could be reversed and the relationship would still stand – that’s an equal relationship. In the second case, can you think of role reversal at all? That’s why its unequal and holds zero value for the girl.
From such happy premises to the lead character’s sudden, unexplained death is a whodunit that gives the movie it’s intrigue quotient. Neither the red herrings nor the actual ending does any justice though.
Two things stuck out from the death scene – a dead man kept lying in the rain – who does that? Why was he not shifted inside but kept lying outside in the rain, except for the dramatic appeal? Also, in the same scene, the cop does not get drenched as he walks back inside without an umbrella even though it is still raining. This quirk of the rain is seen again in another scene where the cop and his side kick are seen having tea outdoors with rain in the background but the characters remain untouched. In fact, the rain is so omnipresent in all of the cop scenes that it gets downright annoying after a few scenes. It made me sick wondering how much water was wasted to shoot those scenes when there are places like Chennai that went into drought this summer. The rain is so ubiquitous and heavily so, that I kept waiting for some sort of significance to crop up in the story. Other than the allusion to the fact that the lovers did not live long enough to drench in the rains together as they had hoped, and the cop’s personal misery, there’s nothing else that calls for so much rain! This could have been conveyed through a couple of actual rain shots and some shots of puddles or dripping leaves etc!? I mean I have never been so annoyed with rains before!
Tovino lives and breathes as Luca on screen, but the same cannot be said for Ahaana Krishna. There were a couple of jarring cuts and the sub titles lagged behind the dialogues. So technical department was not really up to the mark. Some dialogues sounded too artificial like where Niha talks about feeling like her childhood had kickstarted again and the way she explains her visit in their second encounter.
The parallel track of Akbar’s personal life and the characters therein were not fleshed out enough. Their dialogues felt very artificial and scripted. The clipped conversations and stiff body language between Akbar and his wife seemed contrived. It seems inconclusive that Akbar who goes after a mostly suicide looking death just on a hunch, does not bother to find out why his ex left and lives on in her memories rather than do something about it. And even that, after going through Niharika’s journal which really talks about a until-death-do-us-apart style love story , decides to let go of his own and move on .If it’s because it was his wife that gave him a nudge in the right direction before the puzzle solved itself , was that all it took ? What if that pointer had come from somewhere else, like a colleague?
All in all, the movie works in parts and would have worked well as a longer duration short film. The social aspects that peeked through like adoption, child abuse, healthy relationship etc were good. The music, visuals and art work were beautifully done. In the end, it was a mixed bag that could have been executed way better. It had the potential ya know!