Kammara Sambhavam Review: Well-intentioned and visually impressive, but overlong
This is a film that’s confused about what it wants to be. The dark, tragic tone established in the first half is replaced by a light-hearted tone in the second
In the first half of Kammara Sambhavam, a man tells his real history. In the second half, a film director creates an opposite, distorted film out of this story.
Picture this alternate reality: Adolf Hitler is still alive; but he is not as famous as his real-life counterpart – in fact, he is a loser who has killed only a handful of people, and has managed to keep it a secret till now. Enter Joseph Goebbels with a plan to make a movie on him.
When Hitler finally sees the completed film in a packed theatre, he stares at the screen in utter disbelief -- what he is witnessing is a do-gooder hero, revered by the masses; someone who hasn’t killed a single soul. And we, the audience, are watching him watch that movie. That’s essentially what Kammara Sambhavam is. Confused?
Director: Rathish Ambat
Starring: Dileep, Siddharth, Namitha Pramod, Bobby Simha
It all starts with a group of liquor barons coming together in the present day to revive a defunct party to further their own interests. The leader of this party is now a 96-year-old man, Kammaran Nambiar (Dileep), and the group brings in a film director from Chennai with a plan to make a propaganda film on Kammaran.
This director Pulikesi (Bobby Simha), upon listening to Kammaran’s story, realizes that he is a mini Hitler. But you can’t make a propaganda film with M.N Nambiar in the lead. So he decides to turn M.N Nambiar into M.G.R. Say hello to do-gooder Kammaran. But before he makes this film, we, the audience, will get to see the M.N Nambiar film – a blood-soaked tale reeking of envy, treachery, and deceit.
We are soon transported to pre-independent India. There is a feudal lord (Murali Gopy) who whips his slaves and rapes their women. There is a loser, a young Kammaran, who, after continuous setbacks, finally decides to hit back at his oppressors and claim what is rightfully his, by whatever means necessary. He generates enough venom to poison everyone around him. The loser becomes a master manipulator. One group is pitted against the other. Blood is shed.
Meanwhile, the freedom struggle is raging on in the background. We see Netaji Subash Chandra Bose barking orders; we see British officers brutally murdering Indian soldiers; we see intensely patriotic officers putting their lives on the line to protect their motherland. One of these officers is Othenan (Siddharth), the hero of our story. But, in Pulikesi’s film, he will be the villain and Kammaran the hero. Sounds interesting, right?
One is instantly reminded of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, a film that dealt with an alternate reality in which Hitler is assassinated by a group of ragtag mercenaries. History was distorted, the jokes worked and we didn’t care. In fact, it was so much fun. The same cannot be said, however, of Kammara Sambhavam. I don’t know whether the makers were aiming for what Tarantino had accomplished with his film, but if were, they don’t quite succeed.
This is a film that’s confused about what it wants to be. The dark, tragic tone established in the first half is replaced by a light-hearted tone in the second. Some of the jokes work, like, for e.g., the scene of a movie premiere in which the actors from Kammara Sambhavam are watching the Kammaran biopic with Kammaram in attendance (he has a WTF expression throughout). The rest of the movie didn’t work for me, especially the second half. It’s well-intentioned and visually impressive, but overlong.