Kumbalangi nights is a film which tells the tale of a house which is said to be worst house ever in the locality and how it transforms to be called as a beautiful home by the latest entrants in the house. Kumbalangi nights certainly stands apart from the movies released in recent times. The beauty of the film would be the way the characters are portrayed in a very natural way. There are no heroes, no ferocious looking villains, no slow-motion sequences, no stunts and no over-dramatic portrayal of romance. The film is just a slice of the life of 4 brothers living in the outskirts of Kochi and the interactions developed between them and their neighbor’s house where Shammy, their new neighbor spins an aura of uncertainty around him with an eerie aura.
The story unfolds with the youngest brother, Franky lying to his friends in school when they all plan to visit his home and then explore the Ernakulam city. He excuses himself saying all his family members have chicken pox and hence he can’t take them to his home. Whereas, the truth is that he is ashamed of his house and the surroundings in which they live. He hangs his head in shame when he even thinks about his home. He even tells his eldest brother Saji, portrayed to utmost perfection by Soubin Shahir that this house is the worst house ever in the whole locality. Soubin does a great act of the eldest brother who recklessly fights with another brother, Bobby, again brilliantly acted by Shane Nigam. The two brothers are always shown to be at each other’s throats, be it at home or the pub. The house is marred by constant fights and the reckless lives of brothers who never goes for any work, wakes up only after the sun is high up in the sky and ends the day by drinking whole night. Even on the Remembrance Day of their father, the brothers can’t stop fighting with each other. Seeing the constant fights of the brothers, the second eldest brother, Bonny, played by Sreenath Bhasi, rows away the boat from home and doesn’t even step inside it.
Syam Pushkaran’s story literally steals your heart away, and you can’t help but feel that you also live in the neighborhood near the 4-brother’s home. The powerful acting expertise of Fahadh Fasil, Soubin Shahir, and Shane Nigam makes the movie a visual treat. The film does not boast of any grand entries or voice-overs, which has become a recent trend in the Malayalam film industry. The newbie director, Madhu C Narayanan shows us how simplicity can win hearts above all. The expert camera work by Shyju Khalid ensures that you know every nook and corner of the house and also the water body in front of the brothers’ house, by-heart as if you also lived there at some stage of your life. The evident disappointment which reflects on the youngest brother’s face shows us that they certainly had some good times in the past. The absence of both father and mother in the house only helps in aggravating the wayward life of the brothers. The mother goes away from the house and a brother rows away from the house unable to withstand the fights that are part and parcel of their everyday story.
Unlike other heroes who take up almost the whole screen space to himself, Fahadh stays different and appears only in certain parts of the film. But when he enters the screen, his brilliant acting sends a shiver down our spine. He is the ever polite and ever-smiling Shammi, the husband of the newly married Simi, played by Grace Antony. They live next to the brothers’ home, and the kids in the block tell to Franky, who just returned home for his school vacations that the new man is not friendly. Fahadh again exhibits his acting marvel by just using his eyes to make us cringe. He only talks too politely to everyone and keeps on smiling at everyone. He keeps calling Simi, his wife ‘mole’ and still every time he smiles and talks politely he creeps the hell out of you. Even Simi shivers every time he talks extremely politely to her with an ever-smiling face. How he does that cannot be explained or put in words as you have to watch it on the screen to be blown away by his acting brilliance. Simi is portrayed as the typical housewife who nods to everything her husband says and follows him like a shadow without any particular opinion by herself. Shammi, with his sinister smile even prods the sisters who talk in hushed tones inside the kitchen and keeps on asking with an eerie smile what they were talking about even when they tell him that it something personal between the sisters.
The background score of the film is another factor which makes the film score extra points. All hell breaks loose when one of the brother’s Bobby falls in love with Simi’s younger sister Baby, played by a newcomer Anna Ben, a pretty girl with an even prettier smile, much to the disapproval of Shammi, the brother in law. The beauty of their love story is the fact that Baby doesn’t try to change the wayward behavior of Bobby. She accepts him as he is and is never bothered about the fact that he lives in the house which has the social stigma of being the cursed house ever in the locality. She doesn’t care about the truth that Bobby is from a different religion, doesn’t have any job or money to even give 60 rupees for shaving at her brother in law, Shammi’s shop. They both accept each other without any lengthy dialogues or over emotional dramas. When Simi once asks her about Bobby being a Christian, she replies carelessly that Jesus is not an unknown person for them also. The dialogue said in Malayalam touches a cord somewhere in our hearts and makes us realize that we should see others and accept others as easily as Baby does. The love story unfurls in a lovely way without any overdramatic proposals or running around tree scenes. There is a point where Bobby loses all hopes in making Baby’s family impressed about him and asks her to go away as he has nothing to offer her and will only make life miserable for her. In that scene Baby again asks innocently, “Is true love out of fashion? I just asked because I don’t know”. That would be one of the most heart rendering and beautiful scenes in the film which leaves a tear in our eyes as Baby again teaches us true love is above all imperfections.
The tale also later turns around with the story reaching to newer heights with changes ushered in by women, a curly haired African native Anna Ben and a widow who enters the house in the second half. How they turn the most hated house to a beautiful home forms the essence of the story. There is even a point where the ever-obedient Simi reacts by breaking the mosquito bat and answering strongly to her husband Shammi, that he cannot talk in an abusive tone to her sister Baby. Instead of heroically introducing men to save women from abuse, here the women turn strong at the most unexpected situations and react to protect others, be it Simi standing up for her sister or the widow who forgives the one who is the cause for her husband’s death even when she is in full term labor with the uncertainty of life looming large in front of her. She forgives the wrong-doer so effortlessly without any dramatic emotional scenes, thus making us realize the value of relations, love, and forgiveness. Sushin Shyam succeeds in capturing our heart as he paints the scenes with music that renders you speechless at times and makes you ponder a bit about the hollowness of social stigmas and essence of true relations.