Verdict: Nivin Pauly impresses as a highway robber in one of his career’s best efforts.

The year’s much-awaited film has finally arrived, and how! With a budget of Rs 45 crore, Kayamkulam Kochunni is touted as Malayalam cinema’s most extravagant offering to date. The three-hour long film certainly justifies the hype it has generated. The combination of director Rosshan Andrrews and actor Nivin Pauly scores hands down in this period drama, which has paid ample attention to detail and done its history homework. Produced by Gokulam Gopalan and scripted by Bobby and Sanjay, the cinematography is helmed by Binod Pradhan, Nirav Shah and Sudheer Palsane. Besides Nivin Pauly, the cast has Mohanlal, Babu Antony, Priya Anand, Sunny Wayne and Sudheer Karamana in prominent roles.

What’s Kayamkulam Kochunni About:

The movie traces events in the life of Kayamkulam Kochunni – a highway robber who was active in the early 19th century. Ten-year-old Kochunni (Nivin Pauly) finds himself starving and homeless. He is taken in by a kind soul, who gives him work and a place to live. As an adult, he finds a Kalari aashan in Ummar Qasi Thangal (Babu Antony) and love in Janaki (Priya Anand), while a string of events leads him to the thief Ithikkara Pakki (Mohanlal). How the naive boy turns into a Robin Hood of sorts, fighting injustice and the social order of the day, makes the rest of the film.

What Works:

The movie traces a crescendo, both in terms of the pace of the storyline and Kochunni’s character. The transformation of Nivin Pauly from the naive youngster to the swash-buckling thief is commendable. He apparently received training in horse-riding and archery for the film and has executed the role to perfection. Right from the first frame, Kayamkulam Kochunni transports us to 19th-century Kerala. Kudos to the art team for the almost faultless execution.

Apart from Nivin Pauly, even Mohanlal delivers a fantastic performance as Ithikkara Pakki. His body language and acting easily makes this one of his better performances of late. Thangal is as crucial to the plot as Ithikkara Pakki and it is a treat to see Babu Antony in a meaty role. Sunny Wayne as Kesava Kurup plays the anti-hero with elan in a restrained role. While the makers have taken some creative liberties in the folklore we have heard time and again, most of it seems very believable. The action scenes provide the adrenaline rush, especially in the climax scene.

What Could’ve Been Better:

Certain elements, which do not add anything to the storyline, could have been avoided like the dance sequence by Ithikkara Pakki. In a movie that shows Kochunni as somebody who does not let anyone disrespect women (even the mighty British), an item number feels completely out of place.

Why You Should Watch:

A historical film of this scale is the first in Malayalam cinema. Nivin Pauly has done an amazing job in bringing alive one of Kerala’s most talked about folklore. It is one you should not miss!