Remember watching CID Moosa, and enjoying it? Well, if CID moosa represented a weird brand of rough-hewn filmmaking that thrived on its characterization of some madcap characters, Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel taps into its suspense packed screenplay to create an air of respectability without ever losing sight of its goal to entertain. It presents before us a tried-and-tested cinematic aesthetic which depending on your sensibility could by turns leave you mildly satisfied and frustrated over the way the whole thing transpires.
For a movie with manifest camp aspirations, Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel moves along cautiously to get the basic plot elements right. On the one hand B Unnkrishnan’s well paced narrative exposition and eye for detail succeeds in lending a thriller dynamic to at least three fourths of the film, and on the other hand it uses a litany of vacuous conventions to ensure that you don’t take this movie any seriously. You watch in disbelief as the film keeps oscillating between narrative restraint and mindless comedy to such an extent that you might just have to pinch yourself to ensure you are not watching two different movies. For me, it was a unique movie in that it carried this singular ability to elicit awe and bored stupefaction at such short intervals.
As if still in the hangover from the protracted court case saga, Dileep plays Balakrishnan, a stuttering lawyer, who appears to be literally proceeding against all laws of nature to cut it in his profession. At times the character looks like it’s been written to reveal the overt and subliminal shades of the persecuted person in the actor. We’re introduced to the hardship and ill treatment faced by a speech impaired, timid person working in a profession that runs primarily on eloquence and persuasion. Things take a rough turn for Balakrishnan when his selfish brother in-law brings him a case that will land him in hot water.
The taut subtlety of the plotlines strikes a jarring note in the hit and miss comedy routines. But not long into the film you gradually start to see how the director intends the lowbrow comedy to serve as a counterpoint to plot’s seriousness. But he is never really in a mood to strike a balance between controlled storytelling and occasional amusement. On the contrary, he deploys a full-scale assault on time-honored tropes in malayalam movies, and in the process gives audience a mixed bag of thrills, hilarity and entertainment. The film looks like a textbook example of a director having fun when it incorporates Vandanam-esque slapstick into its narrative.
The uninspiring initial scenes of the movie made for a plodding viewing experience. But the story picked up pace in the first half and swimmingly unfolded with some neatly tied together suspenseful elements in place. Although B. Unnikrishnan does a commendable job in weaving together plot lines convincingly, the sketchy exposition of characters’ backstory rendered me incapable of connecting with film’s end product. For the most part, the characters’ motivations and transformation remained so underexplored that it made me wonder how things might have been, if the writer had adopted a more layered approach. Perhaps, among the glaring errors of a movie that has its flashes of brilliance, is its criminally weak technique employed to solve a specific narrative conflict.
Every time the writing starts to get too smart for its seemingly inane events, there is conscious attempt on the writer’s part to water it down to its genre-specific believability. The result is a camp universe where you can explore a reasonably well thought out, if not flawless, script while indulging your unreflective longing for gravity-defying slapstick buffoonery and comedy tropes.