The protagonist in B Unnikrishnan's new film, a junior advocate named Balakrishnan (Dileep), gets an entry usually reserved for a mass hero, but the effect is quickly diluted when Balakrishnan begins to stutter in front of the judge (the ever-reliable Saiju Kurup) while trying to fetch bail for a local thug (Aju Varghese) who later becomes his sidekick.
Balakrishnan reminded me of Austin Pendleton's character from an excellent 90s Hollywood comedy called My Cousin Vinny which, like this film, is about 'brilliant idiots' who never got their due. And Pendleton's character proved that a stammering lawyer inside a courtroom can be a perfect trigger for stomach-hurting laughs. Balakrishnan, too, manages to get a few good laughs out of his predicament.
But this is not a remake of that film. Unnikrishnan's film is a different beast altogether, and I'm not sure if all of it fits. Balakrishnan is not exactly a fresh character - we have seen Dileep play variations of him in several of his 90s hits - but it's the only character that manages to keep the film on its tracks whenever it runs off. There is an emotional story behind the stutter which is revealed in the second half, but good luck trying to find some logic in it. The same can be said for the blunder committed by the supposedly astute Balakrishnan which triggers the events in the film. If not for it, this film wouldn't exist. Though an attempt is made to back it up with a reasonable explanation in the third act, it fails to convince.
Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel sees Unnikrishnan at his most relaxed, showing that the director is capable of writing slapstick comedy, even though it's mostly lowbrow. One can't help but laugh when Bheeman Reghu - who made a career out of playing menacing tough guys - appears as a stammering gangster who always needs his minions to finish his sentences for him. Yet another person with a speech impediment, especially one who is out for his blood, only adds to Balakrishnan's woes.
Suraj Venjaramoodu comes up with inspired humour in a few portions even though these veer into Tom and Jerry territory at times. In one scene, he is thrown into the air by an oncoming car, gets electrocuted by the overhead cables, and lands on the ground in one piece. This is the sort of stuff that Jagathy used to display in abundance in the early Priyadarshan films but it feels out of place today. If there is one character the film could've done without, it is Aju Varghese's, who was intolerable, to say the least. Siddique plays Balakrishnan's ganja-smoking father who, despite occasionally cracking a few sexist jokes, is a riot whenever he is on screen.
The film makes it obvious from early on that it was not designed to provide any sort of intellectual stimulation, and any attempt to seek the same would be an exercise in futility. It's more interested in playing to the gallery and should be approached in the same way as you would any commercial entertainer. There is a list of things that don't work and a list of things that do. It succeeds at evoking some sympathy for its protagonist and conjures up some solid fun while at it.
Film: Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel
Director: B Unnikrishnan
Cast: Dileep, Mamta Mohandas, Priya Anand