Kumari Review | Aishwarya Lekshmi-starrer loses its way in a supernatural world

It seems Prithviraj Sukumaran is ready to spend his time and money on any script as long as it has an element of high drama. Take his directorial debut 'Lucifer', or his recent films 'Kuruthi', 'Jana Gana Mana' or 'Kaduva', his penchant for high drama is clearly evident.

Tell him, there is an element of the underworld, terrorism or something supernatural in the story, and he is readily onboard. He has acted in at least five films themed around the supernatural in the past five years. So, one has every reason to believe that Prithviraj must have been lured to Aishwarya Lekshmi-starrer 'Kumari' primarily by its plot which has supernatural and sorcery at its core. Prithviraj doesn’t play any role in the film; he is a co-producer.

'Kumari' is a fantasy film laced with an element of horror and loaded with motifs that are deep-rooted in Kerala's religious and ritualistic psyche.

It's yet another screen version of an ancient story that is told across the world, in diverse forms. The central theme is the man’s hunger for power and self-destructive interaction with the evil forces beyond his control.

No matter how many times it was told, people never run out of their curiosity when it comes to a story about the imaginary other world and its beings. The challenge before a filmmaker while attempting this genre is to make the story, often a stale one, look as fresh and convincing as possible. Director-writer Nirmal Sahadev starts 'Kumari' on the right note. The film has the perfect beginning for fantasy as the prelude sets the launchpad right. The grandma’s tale takes the audience to a strange world of the good gods and the mischievous elves and goblins rather easily. The problem with the narrative as it progresses is that it fails to live up to the build-up in the initial sequences.

The film is set in an undated period where feudalism is the order of the day. The story unfolds in a local landlord's ancestral house – in its dark corridors, dim-lit rooms and spooky attic. And the action at times shifts to the depths of a forest nearby. No, there are no ghosts in the film. Instead, there is a 'chathan' (a supernatural being worshipped by the so-called lower castes) and another blood-thirsty deity. Between them is Kumari, a village girl who was married off to the Kanhirangat tharavad (ancestral home), and her multi-shaded husband Dhruvan. Kumari not only comes to face with a series of extraordinary incidents in the house but also becomes a part of them. She is the chosen one to set right a series of wrongs committed by a former patriarch some generations ago. The setting is intriguing for anyone with a taste for fantasy and mystery.

The plot, however, is stuck in a rulebook of the genre, if there is one. The characters' tension doesn't convey to the audience. The narrative flows in a rather predictable manner, leaving little moments of thrill and fear.

Aishwarya as Kumari gives a composed performance. There is not even a single scene where she looks unconvincing even when the plot goes chaotic or confusing. Shine Tom Chacko tries his best to give life to Dhruvan, the introvert-turned-cold-blooded sorcerer and a cruel feudalist. His body language conveys the transition clearly but the character suffers from his dialogue delivery at places. Swasika Vijay as Kumari’s caring sister-in-law offers a subtle performance while Surabhi Lakshmi, an otherwise brilliant actor, is given a role that forces her to resort to an extra dose of theatrics.

Abraham Joseph’s cinematography, Sreejith Sarang’s editing and Gokul Das’s production design give Kumari the necessary features of a chitrakatha (graphic story).

Jakes Bejoy’s background score blends well with the scenes but the tracks don’t stay with the audience. The use of Thyagaraja’s ‘Brova Barama’ (Am I such a burden?) in the scene where Kumari is sent off to her husband’s home after marriage is a brilliant work of creativity. But then the film has a dearth of such moments of creativity.

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