Breaking the masculine stereotypes – Kumbalangi Nights
Madhu C Narayanan’s Kumbalangi Night feels like a breath of fresh air every time we watch it. It’s not just the visually stunning frames or the mind-blowing performances by the lead actors that make Kumbalangi Nights a film one of its kind, but something more that can only be experienced.
The way every characters are written in Kumbalangi Nights is simply brilliant. Their personalities are well-defined. May it be the eerie psycho Shammy or the aimless Bobby (he changes) the characters have a fixed frames. Even the women have a structural definition. Though highly devoted to her husband, Simy is not ok with her husband being abusive to her sister. Baby (Anna Ben) on the other hand will go any extreme for her love but she is clearly not being delusional.
Taking the men in particular, it is interesting to see how each men break the conventional masculinity which is quite common in movies. Oh yes, not including Shammi here! He is the flag bearer of toxic masculinity. While all other men are sensitive and struggling with their own set of emotions.
While addressing sensitive issues like toxic masculinity, movies generally tend to foray it on a larger canvas, with the issue being the centre of discussion, the heart of the film. But Kumbalangi Nights breaks this convention, by just character development. And that is one of several things that makes it a gem of a film.
Shammi lives in a household that has only women, his wife Simi, her sister Baby and their mother.
Shammi feels like an authoritarian in his ‘women’s-only’ household. The opening scene itself is a testament to it. He clears off a bindi stuck on the mirror and says to himself, ‘Raymond, the complete man!’
He wants to be the sole decision maker of the house, he wants everyone to be happy with his decision, like in a typical household. And ironically goes on to claim that, ‘Our family belives in giving girls a little bit of freedom’.
It is these tiny character details that brings out the toxicity in Shammi.
Upon his companion’s death, Saji is summoned to the police station. Dileesh Pothen’s cop character slaps him and lets him leave with a warning. The expression on Saji’s face is not that of guilt or gratitude for letting him go. He is just stuck, still struggling to cope with the tragedy that just occurred. He is unable vent out. He reaches out to Frankie for help.
Saji is a sensitive guy. We see him get better, more mature after seeking medical help. We see a feminine notion of Saji after that. He cooks and takes care of the house.
If Shammi was the patriarch, Saji was the matriarch in Kumbalangi Nights.
Boney does not have a lot to express, he is just sick of his messed up house. But is there for them when things begin to clear up.
Frankie is just looking for a proper home, where there is love and care, a home he would love to come back to during his vacation. And he finally gets one.
The aimless Boney starts feeling his existence after he falls in love with Baby. She instills in him a sense of purpose and assurance.
It is not in the larger picture or narrative that toxic masculinity in the movies is addressed but a smaller picture like these.