Kaapa, in its opening scenes, throws up some intriguing possibilities. A policeman walks in with easy familiarity into a young couple’s home as a ‘routine’ visit. Soon, he lets Anand (Asif Ali) know that his wife Binu (Anna Ben) is being mistaken to be the head of a dreaded gang because of her family background and her typically male-sounding name. Her name even figures in the Kerala Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act (KAAPA), known better as the goonda act, owing to the colourful stories of the exploits of her gang published regularly by a local newspaper.
In those initial phases, we look at Thiruvananthapuram’s underworld through the eyes of Anand, a naive IT engineer who has hardly a clue about what he has landed himself in, or about what his wife’s family went through in the past. She is facing the threat of not just being jailed, but also of being harmed by a gang led by Kotta Madhu (Prithviraj). But all the possibilities thrown up when the film takes Anand’s viewpoint, seems to be lost in no time when it places gang leader Madhu in the centre, turning it into a typical gang war story with a late attempt to redeem it somewhat.
Director: Shaji Kailas
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Aparna Balamurali, Asif Ali, Anna Ben
Shaji Kailas, who stayed away from making movies for close to a decade until he made Kaduva earlier this year, returns with Kaapa in less than six months. Unlike that old-school mass action film, he has the cushion of a strong story here. Scriptwriter G. R. Indugopan has almost stuck to the broad narrative of his popular story Shanghumukhi, on which the movie is based, but the gang leader Kotta Madhu and the gang rivalries get more prominence on-screen, with the young couple caught in between being relegated almost to the background. In the end, this proves to be its undoing.
One sees glimmers of what the movie could have been in some of the well-conceived background stories, especially the one in which a young Madhu is shown exploiting a boy’s poor economic background to use him to commit a crime, leading to a life-long experience of guilt. As Jabbar (Madhu’s sidekick), actor Jagadish gets yet another notable role in what is turning out to be a fresh innings for him in cinema. However, the same cannot be said about the writing of women characters. While Aparna Balamurali gets a slow-motion entry, hinting at a prominent presence, and Anna Ben is at the centre of the story, both of them have hardly anything to do for much of the runtime, except for a few scenes which are written almost as a consolation prize at the end.
Although the movie aspires to take a deeper look at the capital’s criminal underground, it conveys the feeling of having just managed to skim the surface and failing to properly explore the characters that it focused on. Despite having a solid story to build on, Kaapa fails to become anything more than a typical gangland drama.
Kaapa is currently running in theatres