Kumbalangi Nights is a beautiful exploration of the lives of a motley bunch of outcasts, who eventually find their place in life through love and togetherness.
There are two types of cinephiles in India – those who have already watched Kumbalangi Nights and those who are waiting for the movie to be released on a digital platform. With fans and critics alike declaring it as the ‘best movie of the year in Indian cinema’ so far, there has been a widespread clamor for Amazon to release the movie on Prime Video. Being part of the latter category, after missing out on the theatrical release, I was finally able to enjoy another gem of a movie from the Malayalam industry.
Kumbalangi Nights is a character study of four half-brothers Saji (Soubin Shahir), Bobby (Shane Nigam), Bonny (Sreenath Bhasi) and Frankie (Mathew Thomas). At the start of the movie, the youngest of the siblings Frankie is embarrassed even to invite his school friends over to Kumbalangi, where he lives in a broken-down hovel with his brothers. His brothers, Saji and Bobby are both loafers, reluctant to put in an honest day’s work.
It is when Bobby falls for a tourist guide Babymol that things begin to escalate. The burgeoning love story between Bobby and Baby is as sweet as any I’ve seen, but Baby’s brother-in-law and acting family patriarch Shammy (Fahadh Faasil) has no inclination to accept their marriage proposal. Though he is mostly confined to the periphery of the story, he is a sight to behold whenever his menacing presence takes centerstage. He does a stupendous job of portraying a deranged man, whose barely suppressed macho and misogynistic tendencies simmer underneath his outward smiling façade.
In the second half, a flurry of circumstances opens the house in Kumbalangi to more people – a foreign tourist who is besotted with Bonny and the widowed wife of Saji’s late Tamil friend, who is carrying a newborn baby. Happiness, laughter, and love are also gradually welcomed back into the house as the four brothers gradually find purpose and answers in their lives. Frankie takes to his extended new family, as it helps fill the void left by their mother. Watching him proudly show his football medals to the newcomers is such an endearing scene. Bobby becomes a responsible adult and finds his true calling in being a fisherman. Saji also goes from living off others to actually providing for those in need, as the movie comes full circle.
Kumbalangi Nights is a beautiful exploration of the lives of a motley bunch of outcasts, who eventually find their place in life through love and togetherness. At a time when we are building walls (metaphoric and otherwise) around us, it comes as a reminder that there is always room for accommodating kindness and compassion.