'Once Upon a Time In Kochi' movie review: Drug tale that drags its way to a dead end

When they meet a few years later, Haibi learns that Janaki is into drug peddling to repay her loans.
First look poster of' Once Upon a Time In Kochi'
First look poster of' Once Upon a Time In Kochi'

Nadirshah started off his filmmaking journey with two successive hits, Amar Akbar Anthony (2015) and Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan (2016), which both primarily focused on his strength—comedy. But ever since then, Nadirshah’s career graph has seen a steep fall with his next three films failing to make any impact. His latest release Once Upon a Time In Kochi has him collaborating with Raffi, also known for his prowess in handling comedy. The duo has taken the growing drug menace in Kochi as the crux to spin a story, covering all commercial ingredients—romance, dance, humour, action, twists—but nothing in the right proportions.

The film starts off with a song featuring hand puppets with images of the lead pair, Devika Sanjay and Mubin M Rafi. But don’t ask anything about its relevance. In hindsight, it is one of the most bizarre openings for a film like this. Haibi (Mubin) and Janaki (Devika) were in a relationship during their IELTS coaching days, but they broke up midway after she moved to the UK for higher studies.

When they meet a few years later, Haibi learns that Janaki is into drug peddling to repay her loans. Haibi, who still nurses feelings for her, also joins her without realising the risks attached. Parallely, Anand Das (Arjun Ashokan), a forthright young cop, is on a mission to wipe out drugs from the city. The conflict begins when these three characters meet and their plans get intertwined.

First things first, it seems like the makers were unsure of how to treat the film. Once Upon a Time In Kochi is neither a comedy nor a thriller. The film being unintentionally funny throughout, it would have been more effective as a full-fledged dark comedy. In fact, Shivajith’s villain character, his African boss, a sharp shooter with weak eyesight are all potential characters for a hilarious ride, but the makers fail to identify it. Instead, they focus more on the love triangle between Haibi, Janaki and Anand. The actors are also functional and don’t bother pushing their limits.

Nadirshah’s tendency to overcook the plot by forcing in too many characters and subplots is on display in this film as well. It also doesn’t help that several songs are thrust in at random points in an already uninteresting narrative.

At a time when new-age filmmakers are experimenting with form and themes, veterans like Raffi and Nadirshah also need to pull up their socks and show their true potential. They have proven it in the past, maybe they still can.

Film: Once Upon a Time In Kochi

Cast: Arjun Ashokan, Devika Sanjay, Mubin M Rafi, Raffi, Shivajith

Director: Nadirshah

Rating: 1/5 star

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