Kambhoji is a movie I heard about thru a Facebook Live video by one of my friends who has worked in its music… Quite frankly, I have been missing the days when music in malayalam movies used to be rooted in the Indian Classical Music and so I have been looking forward to watching the movie ever since… Finally, after much wait, I finally got the DVD and watched it…


The film is said to be based on a true story involving a series of incidents that took place in the 1970s where as a first ever in the country, a Kathakali artist – Shemankottil Sivasankaran, was sentenced to death on a murder charge and then executed at Kannur Central Prison… What’s unique and unusual about this is the fact that it was for the very first time that an artist got the death penalty and he was hanged in his full performing attire as per his last wish… The film basically revolves around the artist’s life and events that led to the crime, his conviction and finally his execution in detail…

The movie, written and directed by Vinod Mankara, stars the well known dancers and actors Vineeth and Lakshmi Gopalaswami in the lead roles and this film also marks Vineeth’s debut as a Choreographer, which if you ask me, he should’ve started much earlier… πŸ™‚ The music for the film that I have been looking forward to listening was by the well known music director M. Jayachandran and features incredibly great singers like K. J Yesudas, K. S. Chitra and Bombay Jayashri, with lyrics by the legendary lyricist O. N. V. Kurup who passed away before this movie was released making this his last work…

After watching the film, however, I am left with mixed feelings as I found that there are things in the movie that I liked and there are things in the movie which I felt could’ve been a lot better… So, coming to what I liked, first of all, I loved the storyline… It is indeed a tragic love story which culminated in a crime… Since this is a true incident, I don’t really have to worry about revealing the plot here as the story is available in literature / public domain… To summarise, you have this incredibly talented and ambitious (in a good way) Kathakali artist who seeks out a very famous master (played by Hareesh Peradi) of the time and becomes his student and then ends up taking over the school when the master decides to move on with his life and leave… He falls in love with the girl (Lakshmi Gopalaswami) in the family who owns the school, who is a famous Mohiniyattam artist… Everything goes well until the local prostitute (played by Sona Nair) makes a rape accusation on him and everyone including his lover and his master, assumes that he is guilty and disowns him by which he pretty much looses everything including his dream of becoming the great Kathakali artist that he aspired to be… So, he ends up taking revenge by murdering the prostitute in cold blood… It is for this crime that he gets the death penalty for… So, this movie takes us thru an incredibly beautiful journey thru life in the 50s and 60s, filled with music and dance as we go along the storyline…

I also liked the idea of Vineeth’s choreography for the song sequences where essentially the essence of the love between the main characters gets depicted as a combination or rather a mating of the two art forms Kathakali and Mohiniyattam… Regarding music, my favourite remains the song “Anguli Sparsham” sung by Bombay Jayashri which I think is a beautiful composition in Aahiri ragam πŸ™‚ The rest of songs however, I couldn’t care less about as this one really stands out and eclipses the others for me…

Now coming to the things I didn’t like… First of all the acting… I am deeply sorry to say, but the acting in the movie failed across the board in my opinion as I felt pretty everybody were being unnatural and were exaggerating too much, the expressions and emotions being conveyed… Although, I choose to believe that it might be a deliberate thing as the actors who have worked in this film are really great actors… So, my best guess is that since the expressions tend to be exaggerated in classical dance forms like Kathakali, which makes sense considering there were no cameras and big screens for the audience to see everything clearly back then, the director may have asked the actors to do the same considering the nature of the movie… But the problem is that seeing the exaggerations throughout the film kind of felt ridiculous for me… I think I would’ve enjoyed the movie a lot more if things had been kept natural…

Another thing I didn’t like is the song sequences… I mean I did like the idea behind the choreography but I think the choreography itself could’ve been a lot better… I think there are too much slow motion shots used and too much location shifts and shots coming in from non-continuous angles making it look not seamless at all so that the whole thing felt like a mismatch when compared to the songs itself thereby causing me the viewer to be distracted and not enjoy both the audio and visuals, especially regarding the song Anguli Sparsham… The costumes used often times felt weird too… I remember watching a TV show where both Vineeth and Lakshmi Gopalaswami were present to promote this film and they gave an impromptu performance on the same song and I felt that performance looked a lot better than what came inΒ  the movie… I guess the fact that Vineeth is doing choreography for a film for the first time is clearly shown… We know he is a master on the stage and so I guess in time he’ll master choreography for the screen as well… πŸ™‚


So, what relevance does this story have today?? Well, I think its a perfect example of the gender based injustice thats been going on in our society even today… I am not talking about the murder here… But rather what led him to go mentally deranged enough to decide to commit the crime… I am talking about how when an accusation of crime against a woman (sexual or otherwise) gets made against a man, he is instantly and automatically assumed to be guilty for the rest of his life… Absolutely zero benefit of doubt is given to him and even if he manages to prove himself innocent, our society still assumes he is guilty and also that he had outsmarted the court or paid his way out to freedom… Even laws exist in the post-modern world which too assumes the man to be guilty and puts the burden of proof entirely on the man to prove himself innocent… In other words, any woman can accuse a man and are not required to provide any proof/evidence to support the accusation and the man gets arrested immediately… However, its up-to the man to prove himself innocent, failing which he gets declared as guilty and gets punished… In this movie when the accusation gets made, nobody including his lover, his master who has been considering him as his son and the master’s daughter who has been considering him as her own brother, bothered to even consider the possibility that accusation maybe false… This is something thats known to happen even today (eg:, what happened to the men accused by the Rohtak sisters) and I can only hope that at-least people who watch this movie can avoid being too quick to judge…

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