Koode is a heart-warming tale about the importance of relationships in life. Sounds cliche? This movie, the third feature film by Anjali Menon, is far from being cliche.
Its leading man, Prithviraj said that Koode is the sort of film that is difficult to conceive. Perhaps he is right, but what has transpired is a deeply moving portrayal of relationships. It is often the case with Anjali Menon, who has given us Manjadikkuru and Bangalore Days previously.
Koode mainly centers on brother and sister Joshua (Prithviraj) and Jennie (Nazriya Nazim). Still, even their van and the dog named Brownie has something enchanting about them. The movie is beautifully shot by cinematographer Littil Swayamp in the tree-lined locations in Ooty and has a melancholic feel. Yet, it is the endearing characters that stands out.
What could I reveal about the plot of Koode? Nothing much. This movie’s plot is based on a magical realism and a Marathi film titled “Happy Journey.” But more often than not, I got the feeling that the plot of Koode is so surreal that it cannot be both things – magical and realistic – at the same time.
I did not buy the surrealism, which forms the foundation for the Nazriya Nazim character. That hardly matters because if a film is destined to be as magical as Koode, then everything else is secondary. Her character is an archetype, which Anjali Menon use as a narrative tool to tell the character transformation of Joshua.
The delicate relationship which Jennie and Joshua form in Koode warms the heart. It is just exquisite and at no point seemed forced into the narrative. Yet, the movie is not just about the bonding between these two. There is also that weary old man, Aloshy who works as a small-time mechanic. The casting of Aloshy, Joshua and Jennie’s father, is another masterstroke from Anjali Menon. She gives Aloshy (director Renjith) several moments in the sun, including one which shows how much he cares for Joshua. The revelatory nature of the scene, which shows the mechanic father working on a model train set, harkens back to similar scenes from Anjali Menon’s previous films. We find it as revelatory as Aju showing a mural of RJ Sarah, his lover, in Bangalore Days.
The casting helps set the equation between Aloshy and his estranged son straight. The chemistry they share in Koode seems more like that of a foster parent and an adopted son. It is aided by Prithviraj’s searing intensity – he is sort of actor who smiles and cries in one frame. In other words, he is endearing.
Then, there is Sophie, which is an almost silent role but Parvathy makes her presence felt. The directions her character go through is equally fascinating to watch in Koode, yet Anjali Menon insists that the movie is about the siblings. No one would have imagined Prithviraj and Nazriya as brother and sister. Their chemistry is so wonderful that at times it is hard to fight back tears and other times not to break out in laughter.
Menon’s craft reminds us of an old filmmaking notion from Alfred Hitchcock – to play the audience like a piano. A piano has black and white keys, the sort of emotions which the characters in Koode, Joshua in particular, go through. Even an eulogy turns out to be a reference to a dappankuthu song, and while we ought to be fighting back our tears, we end up breaking out in laughter. There are many other such moments in Koode, a movie we are going to hear a lot about in the coming days.