Since Kamala is a mystery film, I’m going to keep this review brief and spoiler-free.
Its premise is straight out of a classic Hollywood noir picture: A single real-estate broker Safar (Aju Varghese) who may or may not be shady meets a ‘femme fatale’ Kamala (Ruhani Sharma) who may or may not be a real woman/ghost/figment of his imagination.
A film that takes place over 36 hours, Kamala is Ranjith Sankar’s most refined film till date regardless of a few hiccups in the film’s screenplay and a lack of subtlety in the latter portions.
But for the most part, it’s an engaging mystery that keeps us guessing as to the origin of the titular protagonist.
The entire film revolves around a woman, much like Ranjith’s Ramante Edanthottam. And as in that film, there are two important men here too, one being Safar. For obvious reasons, I won’t mention the other man.
The idea of a man being manipulated by a mysterious woman and the man’s subsequent quest to learn more about her has been employed in countless movies.
Multiple permutations and combinations can be generated with this simple thread. And though the final revelation in Kamala is not as earth-shattering as one would have hoped for, there is enough in it to give one’s brain a decent amount of exercise.
But at times the film seems to be burdened by the conflict of wanting to be two different films at the same time—a simple mystery and a ‘social message’ film —and whatever build-up was achieved in the first half becomes more and more diluted once it approaches the final credits.
It’s nice to see Aju in another serious role again after Helen. An actor who is mostly associated with comic roles, Aju leaves two other talented actors—Sajin Cherukayil and Biju Sopanam—to handle the humour this time.
The film’s strong point is its casting. One can see why Ranjith chose Aju as Safar or a non-Malayali like Ruhani as Kamala. In one scene, Safar wonders why an idealistically beautiful woman like her picked an ordinary “10th pass” guy like him when there are more ‘eligible’ men around.
It’s a question that pops in the mind of all noir heroes once the initial excitement slowly begins to subside.
They have no idea about their women but are still aroused by the thought of romancing danger, because they simply can’t believe their luck and want to strike while it’s still hot (no pun intended).
And though her lines were dubbed by Shruti Ramachandran, Ruhani succeeds in doing what most non-Malayali actors often fail to do—match their given lines with the appropriate expressions despite not being fluent in the language.
And this is why a few of the lip-sync issues can be overlooked because Ruhani plays the part of the lethally seductive woman so well without resorting to any skin show. Some may argue that this character could’ve been played by a Malayali but since Ruhani is not familiar to Malayalis, the character can be evaluated with zero preconceptions.
But the weird thing about this film is that the hero never really gets into a situation that’s too life-threatening. A higher level of danger and stakes would’ve made this film much more exciting.
Thankfully, Ranjith doesn’t opt for a conventional ending and ends it on a note that makes sense considering the characters’ journey up until that point.
Director: Ranjith Sankar
Cast: Aju Varghese, Ruhani Sharma, Sajin Cherukayil