Am I the only one left underwhelmed (and if I am being brutally honest, thoroughly bored) by Koode, Anjali Menon’s latest?
Because no review I’d read before walking into the theatre prepared me for the slow, mind-numbingly predictable fare that was Koode.
Koode had me excited long before it was released. It had one of my favourite writers (Anjali Menon, of course), some of my favourite actors (Parvathi and Nazriya), a beautiful setting, and the promise of an interesting plot: the relationship between a brother and sister. Yet three hours later, I came out of the theatre sadder and wiser. It doesn’t matter how good the ingredients are or how foolproof the recipe; the dish can still go horribly wrong.
We watched Koode as a group and I must admit that only two of us were utterly disappointed by it. The others were in the “Hmm, not bad” zone. However, we, who discuss every movie we watch down to the last detail long after getting back home, did not speak a word about Koode. We came out unmoved, unchanged, as if we had never watched it. As if it had been written with a finger on water. Slow, unclear, and dissolving into nothingness.
Koode is a movie about relationships, familial responsibilities, and the journey to self-discovery. As the director, Anjali Menon’s biggest win is how she was able to bring out nuances of each of the characters with great economy of style: a flash of expression on someone’s face, an arrested gesture, a clever camera angle, all of it become effective storytelling tools in her hands. I wish she had been able to exercise the same tautness and control in the writing itself.
Because that, to me, is where Koode really fails. The writing is loose, almost lazy in parts.
A great many of Nazriya’s lines are irritatingly preachy, the kind of thing Anjali Menon had steered clear of so assiduously in her previous ventures, and which made them such fine creations. To make things worse, Nazriya’s delivery and expressions were over-the-top in quite a few places and her character sounded more like an overexcited tween than the twenty-year-old she was portraying.
The movie starts off slow and I mean really slow: a good forty minutes is spent in just introducing the main characters and their relationships. This time frame wouldn’t have mattered if what we were watching had been interesting. But all we get is a string of visuals of the (admittedly stunning) Ooty landscape and close-ups of people and places, while a forgettable score drones on in the background.
At one point, Nazriya’s character says “ഞാനും കൂടെ സംസാരിച്ചില്ലെങ്കിൽ ഇത് പിന്നെ ആര്ട്ട് സിനിമ ആയിപ്പോകും.” There was a collective chuckle in the theatre and I thought to myself, സത്യം!
The story never really picks up pace but meanders on like a tourist walking aimlessly through the streets of a new city. You keep waiting for a twist, a reckoning, a moment of truth, but sadly, nothing happens. By the second half, even my ten-year-old niece could predict each and every turn the story would take. Some clever fellows in the rows behind us even started calling out the dialogues before the characters could spout them. And they got the gist of the lines right every single time!
Koode has neither the charm and humour of Bangalore Days nor the magical realism of Ustaad Hotel.
The dialogues are not memorable, let alone quote-worthy. And it doesn’t have characters you want to care about: they are all two-dimensional, like the card soldiers of Alice In Wonderland.
Overall, Koode is disappointing fare and I hope Anjali Menon’s next venture is better than this.