Kumbalangi Nights Review

Brotherhood and the camaraderie it brings is a strong narrative crutch. Kumbalangi Nights knows this and uses the tale of three brothers rallying around a fourth to its advantage. Madhu C. Narayanan’s directorial debut is not just a stunning display of the importance of family, but a loving representation of how family can exhibit their significance. There is an inherent beauty to the landscape around them, but the harsh and inevitable reality of it is that they do not get along. Not since the family unit was ruptured, ruined by tragedy and a failure to adapt to the grief that surely followed. That is where the tension lingers, and it is how these four brothers overcome the odds that Narayanan focuses on here.

Those building blocks of animosity are shown rather often. Brothers who have little to say to one another, their compact lifestyle sees them encroach on one another all too often. What they value is far different to what the other three express interest in. Despite living so close, they embody different walks of life. Kumbalangi Nights utilises that with a crucial awareness that these brothers are at odds with one another more because they aspire for different lives, away from one another. There is no inherent hatred, just a familial bond that never developed beyond playfights and harsh words that soon wash away. Mathew Thomas’ performance, in particular, provides the inevitable cool head to the rather macho representations of Bobby (Shane Nigam) or Saji (Soubin Shahir).

It is that defiance they hold, and while their desire to grow up and lean into adulthood is present, they cannot find a comfortable way of doing it together. Kumbalangi Nights often asks whether we can grow out of family, and sidesteps the ugly affair of answering that question by forcing the brothers to face a mission of equal value to all of them. Coming together not just for the sake of their relationships, but also for the sake of their living parents’ relationship. They have found solace while the brothers are shown to still cling to tension and animosity. Fahadh Faasil has a few moments that break that tension, but his utilisation is far deeper than cult character fodder. Faasil, along with the rest of the cast, turns in great performances that feel both natural and keenly focused on presenting this fractured family.

Even his opening, which shows a football team during and after a match for a brief few moments displays the emotion and realisation Narayanan hopes his audiences make. We are stronger as a unit. Even when there are issues between family, during tragedy or crisis, the biding tensions should simmer down. That is simply the effort of a wishful thinker, and reality cannot apply to that in circumstances beyond our control, yet Narayanan dreams big and offers an airtight representation of what moulds our attitudes towards loved ones, new and old. Strained relations cannot break the bond of birth, and while Kumbalangi Nights has that at its core, the crucial element of it all is the believability not just of these brothers, but how they interact with one another. Narayanan adapts that magnificently.

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