Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 (Malayalam Movie 2019) — This is how you retrofit modern concept into a traditional environment

Science fiction is a classic concept. It has been exploited in every sense possible. Yes, there will be something original in the subject matter itself relating to this genre once in a blue moon. As of now, most of these fresh takes borderlines on fantasy with limited to no explanation about the phenomenon. The attention to detail and the rigid screenplay underpinned on emotions and consistent characterization manages to birth a sense of novelty into the genre of late. But is there some other way to showcase originality without emphasis on a complex system of ideas?

The question is answered in this movie. The espousal of modernism with ancient settings and thoughts is how you preserve the future of the genre while simultaneously scrapping redundant parts of those said environments. It purports to be about Artificial Intelligence with its opening sequence focusing on a Stephen Hawking quote warning about the next technological evolution. But that only serves as a latent danger throughout the movie. Its latency is because of how pleasing the entirety of the film is until the climax. Kunjappan, the Android robot whose enmeshing into the little enclosed community as well as the life of Mr. Subaskaran is so innocuous that the natural endearment and humor are unavoidable.

From the title, one could chart out the possibilities of the movie. So after the initial few mins, we acquire a vague idea of the endgame as well as the probable journey. But the director makes us wait for it. He takes the time to unravel the main characters and their relationships and the quaint village with its recurring places populated by same funny and weird figures. Mr. Subaskaran’s behavior and thoughts are elaborately laid out. The artist who essayed the role exhibits bigotry with comedy thus invoking empathy. The septuagenarian irritabilities and adamancy in the first half and how they are distilled into an a delightful vacation of its own in the second were distinctly differentiated by his performance (it is quite astonishing that the actor is just 43 years old as he has emanates absolute senility throughout). We are invited to sit wading through this foundation and montage song which establishes an auxiliary yet mildly significant relationship to the drama. After ages of longing, at last Kunjappan (the name has its own bemusing history which connects comical side character to the story) the robot is introduced.

If the Japanese have their Kawaii, Malayalese have their Achoda (means cute or adorable). The former has a fascinating way of turning everything charming. And charming is an understatement for Kunjappan. The director has managed to instill the feeling you have while watching cat or baby videos on the internet. From the style of his movement and reactions to the usual childlike innocence of robots and how he is dressed, the body language that comes with the attire and the effect of this charm on Subaskaran’s life and the village as a whole. (Robot’s looks in traditional attire is one of the genuinely cutest things in a flick you can imagine). It is not that the smartness of the Robot is absent. It pops up sporadically. But expanding on how the people receive such an aberration make it closer to the culture than alienate with a cinematically familiar but culturally alien concept.

This loveliness stems from the fact that the director accompanied this wonderful relationship of a grumpy and obstinate aged man who spurs away modernism and a present-day intelligent machine with the customs and characters of the village as well his son. There are ample moments in it to cherish this at the same time not too much to become monotonous. (although you cannot get enough of the cute Robot!). Second half holds two montages. One solidifies the bonding between Subaskaran and the package of cuteness. Another has the Robot imposed as a cupid between two old people separated due to abstract prejudices in the past. (ironically the same ones Subaskaran possesses which gets diminished along the way).

The occasion is used to dish out a commentary on religion, politics, and the application of tech as a whole. Most of them stay within the scope of the plot. There is a particular frame that beautifully illuminates about technological dependency of his son- and daughter-in-law, who try to take away his dependence. This also allows the writer to explore the shock waves felt in the village owing to the presence of an unexpected thing in their midst.

As this affair accelerates towards the conclusion, the seeds for an inevitable sadness are sown parallel to it. But the plants grow faster than expected. The confrontation you were waiting for involving Subaskaran, his son and the truth is so sudden that it hits you with an overflow of emotions. And you are in the final stage before you know it. Given the mature manner in which the story was handled upto that point, you would expect something of the same in in the finish. The expectations are subverted to offer a mixed bag of an outcome. It is not a bad per se but since everything else before it was straightforward (and organic for the most part), hastily unharmonious and uncharacteristically vague elements were a tad out of place. That said, the latent information which had been forgotten was reminded before the climax and connected immaculately in the end.

The movie maintains consistency. But in a couple of places, malfunction is observed. Maybe it can be construed as the result of various inputs throughout the film. But still, the precursors are unsatisfying. But once you start to think about these, you are already enchanted by Kunjappan that you would just ignore them.

Originally published at on January 23, 2020.



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