Maybe because I didn't have expectations and was geared up to thrash it, to my own surprise, I liked Kutty Srank. Kutty Srank is like a lesson in the text book of movie making. The director himself wrote the story of a mariner(Kutty Srank means boat captain in Malayalam) who moors at different ports and as we all know a sailor cannot escape being a sailor, there is indeed a woman at every port. Three ports, three women. Now don't get your hopes high on sleazy and rein in those wayward thoughts - can't it be that these three women could be an embodiment of three main female roles one comes across in life? I think maybe that is what the director-story writer intended them to be.
There is Revamma, the local aristocrat's daughter, her part of the story is set in Malabar("Yeah yeah yeah, I am a believer" in the director, that definitely bought me off.) Padmapriya plays her, a Ceylon returnee, newly converted Buddhist doctor turned nun. Padmapriya is becoming the Smita Patil of the South, if there is strong female character role, directors choose her by default. The film is also set in three seasons. Kutty Srank(oh, that's Mammootty, if you didn't know it already) arrives in Malabar in the middle of summer. He is the boat captain and the right hand of the local Mooppan who takes care of all Mooppan's dirty tasks.
The one time the movie turns slightly artsy is when there is an allegory of a wounded swan depicting Revamma's state. But that's ok in my books, the director doesn't repeat it. Kutty Srank see the shades of his mother in Revamma. The other two women are in the other two principalities which merged to form the current Kerala state, in addition to Malabar - Kochi and Travancore.
We meet Pemmana(Kamalinee Mukharjee) in Kochi during the monsoons and Kali in Travancore in winter. I didn't know there was winter in Travancore. After living in Arctic for almost a decade I could snub at a Kerala winter but the people of Travancore(or Kerala) I know would kick me off the planet if I denied them winter. So don't tell them of my transgression.
The story and the script is rich in the ways of the land, as it was 70-100 years ago. For me Anjuli Shukla's cinematography is the highlight of the movie, of course I cannot comment enough on the talents of the director and the actors.The movie pays tribute to the verdant landscape of Kerala, himself a whiz behind the camera I can understand the director's foresight while creating his scenes and characters making maximum use of the the visual bonanza provided by nature herself.
One thing I found jarring was the location and the set of the police station. It looked like a set, erected on the beach, flouting CRZ(I know there was no CRZ back then, that's just an additional jab), looking and smelling of cardboard and new paint(made to look old of course.) I don't care much about music in a movie like this, I vaguely remember there were songs, native folk song type. Other than that I draw blank when it comes to the sound track treats.
The film won the National award for the best film and best cinematography and 3 other awards(see, my expectations were not far off the mark.) I wonder about the etymology of the word Kutty Srank in Malayalam. Did it come from Cutty Sark - the British clipper chip, whose name is from Scotland? As I have become acquainted with different English accents, I am amazed how much of Indian English accent is shaped by Scottish and Welsh influences.
My final verdict: Give Kutty Srank a try, it might surprise you.