“Kaapa” is a 2022 Malayalam film directed by Shaji Kailas. The screenplay has been adapted by G. R. Indugopan based on his popular short story “Shanghumukhi.” If one wants to enter the whirlwind of “Kaapa” without any clue about the plot, it is mandatory that she has to have a strong gut. Needless to say, the film is gritty, violent, and chaotic—quintessentially how you imagine a typical South Indian film to be. KAAPA, or the Kerala Anti-Social Activities Prevention Act of 2007, catalogs the names of anti-socials, or simply “goondas,” who would promote or indulge in criminal activities that are harmful to the society and consequently degrade the environment. This, in fact, earned the name “Goonda Act” for “KAAPA.”
The film begins with a young couple being visited by a police officer. He informs the husband that his wife’s name has cropped up on the KAAPA list. Anand is a young IT engineer who has recently moved from Bangalore to Thiruvananthapuram with his wife, Binu. The suave and very evidently corrupt police officer confidently explains to Anand that it is his wife’s masculine name and her family’s association with the underworld that has landed her on the fugitive list. He also warns Anand that she stands a high chance of being attacked by the underworld don named Kotta Madhu. As Anand tries to clear his wife’s name out of the mess, the film changes its point of view and slowly shifts to that of Kotta Madhu. Earlier, it was the story of a young, naive man’s bewilderment with a world unknown to him and then gradually became the story of gang rivalry. It notably becomes the story of how a marquee criminal becomes a politician—unfortunately synonymous with the epitome of white-collar crimes in India. We get Madhu’s backstory along with glimpses of his Robin Hood-like philanthropic attitude. His family is his soft underbelly; he will do anything to protect them. As the film progresses, the plot becomes predictable, and the viewers start sensing that Madhu won’t be able to rescue himself from the quicksand of crime. Lateef, publisher of the local newspaper, has a dual identity. He is Madhu’s strongest opponent. He keeps on repeating that the rivalry between him and Madhu would not end with either of their deaths but would rather continue for generations, even long after they are gone. Amidst all the mafia drama, Anand and Binu’s lives slowly move to the periphery. It is only at the end of the film that you can find why the young couple is present—Binu’s disguise as a young, vulnerable woman becomes undone as she emerges as the new ringleader of the gang, which is now in opposition to Prameela’s gang (Kotta Madhu’s wife takes over after his death). The film feels mostly rudderless except for the last thirty minutes. The episodes in the initial 1 hour and 40 minutes are so scattered that it becomes quite painful for a weekend watcher to sit through them. In fact, at one point, it becomes really tedious, and you find yourself trying to connect the dots in a poorly written web series. Let us put it this way: the film gets interesting every time the women get involved; otherwise, the central portion of it lacks layers and high points, but it is somehow saved by the action and decent delivery from the cast.
Prithviraj Sukumaran As Kotta Madhu
Kotta Madhu is a gang leader. He is an overseer of the suburbs and slums of areas around Thiruvananthapuram. This man looks straight into the eyes of the law and does what is necessary, even if it is illegal. The character is imbued with humanism. He plays the role of a protector. He has the power to command and rule over the law. Yet a section of law enforcement that is on the side of gang Binu, publically spearheaded by Lateef, is thirsty for his blood. They want to remove Madhu from the scene. There is a considerable portion of the film that shows a young Madhu who doesn’t hesitate to even employ little kids to do his dirty jobs. The brutality of the character is well expressed through Pritviraj’s eyes. They are restrained yet so powerful. Even if Prithviraj’s body language seems stiff at times, it is his eyes and flexibility in well-choreographed action sequences that save the day.
Prithviraj is a megastar known for his roles in films like “Raavanan,” “Auragazeb,” “Lucifer,” “Jana Gana Mana,” etc. Earlier in 2022, Shaji Kailas featured Prithviraj in “Kaduva” in a role with a huge amount of swagger, but this time in “Kaapa,” he is more restrained and a pleasure to watch. His film “Driving Licence” is being remade in Hindi as the Akshay Kumar and Emran Hashmi starrer “Selfiee,” which relaunches him in Bollywood as a producer.
Asif Ali As Anand Anirudhan
Anand is a software engineer and an IT sector worker. He and his wife Binu moved to Thiruvananthapuram from Bangalore. They are expecting their first child. All his murk turns into anxiety when a policeman informs Anand that his wife’s name is incorrectly charted on the infamous “KAAPA” list. Oblivious to his wife’s past and her familial connection to the underworld, Anand believes the policeman’s words about the danger dangling over his wife. He has to bribe the cop to take his wife’s name off the list. Moreover, he is asked to initiate a dialogue with the rival of his wife’s family, Kotta Madhu. It is his intrigue that takes the plot forward. He is threatened and warned even by the police, and he eventually quits his job in the city and moves to his village to live a quiet and peaceful life. During his short stay in the city, he forges a bond with Madhu’s wife, Prameela, and even saves Madhu’s life by disclosing the conspiracy behind the plot. It is only ironic that he is later used as a ploy to murder Madhu by Lateef.
Asif Ali pulls off a decent stint as Anand. He has appeared earlier in films like “Kettiyolaanu Ente Malakha” and “Amar Akbar.”
Aparna Balamruli As Prameela
The slow-motion opening shot for Prameela promised her to be an important character, but she was reduced to a mere footnote in the story of Kotta Madhu. Prameela is a government official, but she is also the wife of a gangster who very conveniently disobeys the law. She doesn’t seem to have any problem with her husband’s choice of profession (which may be because Madhu eventually emerges as a politician). After Madhu’s death, she becomes the leader of Madhu’s gang.
Aparna Balamruli sadly didn’t get much to do in the film. The National Award-winning actress is known for her roles in “Soorarai Pottru,” “Sunday Holiday,” “Maheshinte Prathikaaram,” and “Sarvapari Palakkaran.”
Anna Ben As Binu Thrivikraman
Binu Thrivikraman is the pivotal character around whom the entire plot is built. Her name on the “KAAPA” list gets the ball rolling. She has had a violent past where her brother Biju was hacked to death in front of her eyes by Madhu. Though the screenplay pushes her to the margins, Binu, with the help of her beloved neighbor Uncle Lateef, takes revenge on Madhu and ultimately emerges as this mafia queen, which will surely remind you of Supriya Pathak in “Goliyon ki Rasleela Ramleela.”
The only image that can be taken away from the film is perhaps that of Anna and Ben sitting on the swing at the end of the film. She accomplishes with great ease the task that has been set for her. Anna made her debut with “Kumbalangi Nights” and has been seen in films like “Helen” and “Kappela.”
See more: ‘Qala’ Cast And Character Guide: Everything You Need To Know About The Characters