Thiruvananthapuram, 12 Dec 2017 15:48 IST
The film is, however, not for the fainthearted as it does not shy away from showing, in detail, even the most brutal of acts.
Kothanodi, director Bhaskar Hazarika's adaptation of four well-known Assamese fables, leaves you so rattled that you can't help but think about each of the stories and the characters in them long after the movie ends.
The protagonists in all four stories that combine to form the film are women. All four stories are beautifully interconnected. For instance, the central character of one story, Tejimola, is a close friend of Bonolika, the central character in another. Tejimola's father looks to help Ketaki, the central character of a third story.
The first story is about Malati, wife of fish trader Poonai, who, on the advice of his uncle, keeps burying his newborn infants. The next is about Tejimola, who is dearly loved by her dad and hated by her stepmother who looks for a reason to get rid of her. The third is about Ketaki, a woman who is kicked out of her home by her husband for giving birth to a vegetable, and the fourth is about Bonolika and her vicious stepmother who, thanks to traditional beliefs, gets an easy opportunity to deliver death to the girl on her wedding night.
The film is not for the fainthearted as it does not shy away from showing, in detail, even the most brutal of acts. For instance, there is a sequence in the film in which a child is married to a python as the people believe the python is a prince in disguise. Actually, the child's stepmother wants her killed and so, using this belief of the naïve masses, gets the girl's father to arrange for her wedding with the biggest python he can find. The manner in which the child is convinced by her father and stepmother for the wedding and how she is forced to spend the 'wedding night' with the python sets your heart pounding.
Hazarika doesn't stop there. He shows the child calling out to the mother as the python begins to wrap itself around her. Even then, the child is assured that it is a blessing and then, till the very last minute, the trusting child is kept in the dark by false hopes provided by the coldhearted stepmother.
As if that is not enough, there is another sequence in the film in which a father is shown burying alive his newborn infants.
Sequences like these send shivers down your spine and and make you go numb with fear.
As a film, Kothanodi succeeds. It rattles you, baffles you, even leaves you stunned. However, it is hard not to question the manner in which one of the stories ends.
Malati and Poonai's tale ends with Poonai's uncle saying he had asked Poonai to bury the newborn infants only to save him. He asks the couple to go to the place where the newborns were buried at night. When the couple does as instructed, the spirits of the infants are shown saying that if Poonai hadn't killed them, they would have killed him a few years later. Agreed, this is an adaptation of a fable, but still looking to justify infanticide is simply unacceptable.
The movie has some great performances from its cast. Urmila Mahanta as Ketaki does a splendid job as does Adil Hussain as Tejimola's father.
The film's biggest plus, apart from the manner in which the stories are told, is its music. Amarnath Hazarika's brilliant background score enhances the impact of the viciousness of the acts and accentuates the fear factor.
In this story, Bhaskar Hazarika's protagonists and antagonists are all women. True, there are men who do not resist the injustice being meted out to the victims or who willingly connive with the perpetrators of crimes. But they are only accorded secondary status with regard to the plot. The primary characters are all women and for that itself the director needs to be congratulated.
Hazarika seems to be a master at narration. The manner in which the stories are told is so powerful that despite the issues discussed above, Kothanodi is a splendid movie when looked at from the point of storytelling. It is a gripping thriller with generous doses of sorcery and black magic. Make no mistake about it, Kothanodi is one of a kind!