Koode review: A profoundly moving ode to the beauty of life
This is, without a doubt, Anjali Menon's best work yet; the sort of film that makes you pay attention to each and every little thing around you
I've got to give it to Anjali Menon. She is a sorcerer when it comes to manipulating our emotions. Here is a filmmaker who continues to astound me with her ability to make the audience feel exactly the way she wants to. Koode, her new film, is without a doubt, her best work yet.
It's been a decade since Anjali made her directorial debut with Manjadikuru. Koode, at times, feels like a spiritual successor to that film and also Usthad Hotel (which she wrote). It has more in common with these two films than it does with her previous film, Bangalore Days. But make no mistake, in spite of the presence of some of her usual trademarks, Koode is an entirely different experience.
Director: Anjali Menon
Cast: Prithviraj, Nazriya Nazim, Parvathy, Ranjith, Atul Kulkarni
As the film's opening itself is a spoiler, I'll structure my review carefully. Koode is about reclaiming lost bonds, sometimes in ways that you never imagined. Joshua (Prithviraj) is a young man who has left his home during his teenage years on account of financial difficulties. As the film opens, he is working in an oil refinery somewhere in the Gulf. When he is informed of a death in the family, he returns home.
When you see him mingling with his family members, you sense a distance between them. He doesn't seem to be affected much by this death; he doesn't shed a tear at the funeral. Things begin to change when his sister Jenny (Nazriya) makes attempts to bond with him. Joshua hasn't seen Jenny in years. At one point, Joshua is irked about the fact that he didn't get anything in return for the things he did for his family. And Jenny tells him, "Did you do it out of love or for duty's sake? Everything becomes easier when you do it out of love." It's an important point to ponder.
The film's promos came with the tag line, 'This is not a love story but a story about love'. Koode is not just about the love between a couple, but also between siblings, parents and children, and students and mentors. When Joshua sees his childhood love Sophie (Parvathy), old passions are rekindled. But there is a slight complication. She is a divorcee and is treated like prisoner in her own house by her macho brothers who want to sabotage any attempt to encroach on their "property" by another man.
We know Joshua wants to be her knight in shining armour. But being an introverted character, he is not exactly the sort of guy who can walk straight into her home, beat those guys up, and rescue her. And Prithviraj plays Joshua beautifully. It's the sort of character that's tailor-made for him. This is Prithviraj's 100th film and it is also his best film. He looks completely at ease, and there is not a false note in his performance.
The same must also be said of Nazriya, Parvathy, and the entire supporting cast. Ranjith is excellent as Joshua's weak but supportive father who slowly transforms into a strong one towards the end of the film. Their bond is stronger than the one Joshua shares with his mother. There is one particular moment between Joshua and his mother that recalled a scene between Dulquer Salmaan and Siddique in Usthad Hotel. The sentiment is the same in both -- that parents need to think about what their children want instead of forcing their wishes on them.
Atul Kulkarni is effective as Joshua's football coach from his school days who, after he turns old, is neglected and abandoned in some stranger's dilapidated shack. He is like Joshua's surrogate father, and their interactions are reminiscent of Dulquer and Thilakan's scenes from Usthad Hotel. Also, much like Dulquer's character in that film feeling conflicted about staying back home, Joshua too experiences the same thing.
This is, in fact, the best thing about Koode -- its strong character development. A sufficient amount of time is spent with each character, getting us acquainted with them, and each and every little detail in their life. Every object inside a bedroom tells a story. Every gesture and facial tic tells a story. A lot is said between the characters with as few words as possible. You don't need someone to tell you what each character is thinking. You feel as if you've known them for years. And giving them all company is an adorable Labrador, who is as much a character in the film as anyone else.
All these moments are strongly bolstered by Littil Swayamp's hypnotic camera work. The camera treats each and everything as if it were something of value. There is one particular image that is so mesmerising that I nodded in agreement when Nazriya's character says, "This right now -- isn't this heaven?" This is the sort of film that makes you pay attention to each and every little thing around you.
And I can't stress enough how great the music by Raghu Dixit and M Jayachandran is. There were parts of Dixit's background score that reminded me of Vangelis' Love Theme from Blade Runner. Koode is best experienced on the big screen. It is an audiovisual experience of the highest order.