On August 11, a new Malayalam movie hit theatres with a title that is as colloquial as it can be: Nna Thaan Case Kodu (NTCK). The title is translated as “Sue Me” by the team themselves, but a more appropriate translation would be, “Then you sue me.”
The poster shows the scales of justice, and it is no surprise that the movie is a courtroom drama. NTCK is the third directorial by Ratheesh Balakrishnan who made a name for himself with his debut movie Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 (2019). NTCK stars Kunchako Boban in the lead, along with Gayathrie Shankar as Boban’s partner, Rajesh Madhavan and an array of other actors.
A lot of furore preceded the release of the movie. A clip of a dance move by Boban to an old song from a Mammotty movie, Devadoothar Padi, broke the internet for its near-accurate portrayal of a Malayali uncle dancing. But closer to the release of the movie, the poster that was printed in newspapers got more publicity than perhaps the trailer itself, even making it to the 9 pm prime time news discussion on Kerala’s leading news channels.
The poster had a catchy tag that loosely translates as, “There are potholes on the road to the theatre, but please come for the movie.” Now, on its own, this is a creative way of marketing a movie that is about potholes. But this has to be read against the background of some happenings in Kerala in the weeks before. Owing to bad road conditions after rains, there have been many accidents, including some deaths.
At such a time, a poster like this only meant one thing for the hardcore supporters of the ruling party of Kerala – an attempt to scar the image of the government. But it did the trick for movie-goers, making them want to see what’s in store. And that’s nothing short of a really well-made movie, that has political relevance, humour and even a bit of romance!
The story revolves around Kozhummel Rajeevan (played by Boban) and a court battle that ensues between him and a leader of a political party owing to a pothole on the road. Rajeevan gets accused of trying to rob a house but he claims that he jumped over the wall of the house to protect himself from an auto running amok. Slowly, we see how there are more people involved in a seemingly simple accident, and the reason for that – a pothole on the road. And what follows is a compelling tale of a man, trying to fight his way out of a legal battle, trying to prove his innocence.
NTCK does not fast-track the time it takes for a case to be given a final verdict. The passage of time it takes to get justice – months and years – are explicitly shown, through Devi’s stages of pregnancy and the birth of their child (Shankar). Seemingly unrelated events are also sewn into the main storyline, giving the audience a sense of following a real event. What makes the movie relatable is its originality, and as an audience, our ability to feel the helplessness of Rajeevan at times, and our exasperation at a system that sometimes takes citizens for a ride. The movie has grossed Rs 25 crore until now, a week from its release, and this success lies in its ability to be able to communicate to the audience the plight of a common man.
Though many socially relevant, political dramas have been released in Malayalam in the recent times, especially during the wave of “New Generation Cinema”, very few have put together a satire that is enjoyable from the first scene to the last. Malayalam industry has produced a number of satires in the late 80s and 90s, such as Sandesham (1991), Varavelp (1989), T.P.Balagopalan M.A (1986). These movies discuss middle-class struggles, political situations and so on, and remain relevant even when we watch them today. NTCK is one such movie which can be placed in any time-period in the past or the future that would still hold its place as a compelling tale.
Vasundhara Krishnan is Academic Associate, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.