When the promotion of a film solely focuses on a single actor it shows that he or she has arrived. When that actor is just two films old, it says a lot. The entire promotion of Kappela focuses on Anna Ben, who made her mark with her debut in Kumbalangi Nights and proved her skills in Helen, which marketed the film keeping her centre-stage. With Kappela, Anna shows that she is here for the long run.
Jessy (Anna) stays in a village named Poovarmala in Wayanad, with her parents and a younger sister. She leads a simple life, helping her mother with tailoring work and spending time with her friend and next-door neighbour Lakshmi. Things change when she accidentally dials a wrong number. And a young man named Vishnu (Roshan Mathew), who is an autorickshaw driver in Malappuram, answers the call. It doesn’t end there. The man keeps calling her back and, initially Jessy is irritated by this. She soon falls for his charm. Since Jessy doesn’t have a smartphone, neither she nor Vishnu can see each other. However, they fall in love and dream of a life together. She wishes to see him just once but their plans to meet gets postponed due to circumstances.
Benny (Sudhi Koppa) is a local businessman and landowner who likes Jessy and wishes to marry her. Though his overbearing mother objects to the alliance, he goes ahead. A worried Jessy makes plans to meet Vishnu at Kozhikode and decide about their future. One day, when her parents and siblings are away, she catches a bus to Kozhikode.
Vishnu promises to meet her at the Kozhikode bus station but fails to arrive on time. Jessy takes refuge in the toilet at the bus station after feeling uncomfortable in the crowd. Meanwhile, Vishnu arrives but loses his phone. A boy steals his phone and walks away, but he is stopped by Roy (Sreenath Bhasi), who grabs the phone from him. It’s a topsy turvy ride from there on.
Mohammed Musthafa has been in the industry for a while as an actor. With Kappela he makes a confident debut as a director. The story and screenplay is not new. The novelty lies in the way the story is filmed. Musthafa takes his time establishing the characters of Jessy and Vishnu, their daily lives, relatives, friends, dreams and struggles. The aim of the director is to open the audience’s eyes to the way people perceive things; that appearances can be deceptive. However, there are some problematic bits. For instance, the film encourages moral policing. And it is doubly problematic in a state like Kerala and the Malabar region, infamous for some recent cases of moral policing. Moreover, in an attempt to deliver a message, the film chooses to belittle the scope of women to make their own choices.
Anna Ben is such a joy to watch. She emotes easily and conveys Jessy’s innocence bordering on naivete, her joys, fears and pains without going overboard at any point. Roshan Mathew impresses as Vishnu, with his easy charm and good looks. Sreenath Bhasi has been miscast and doesn’t do justice to the character curve of Roy, despite his brooding looks and menacing disposition. Playing the tough guy with a golden heart, Bhasi instead comes across as a psychopath or a borderline pervert with his creepy act. Starting from Kumbalangi Nights, Bhasi has been doing some impressive work. His short role in Trance shows his range. But making the transition from a sidekick to playing the lead is no mean task.
Kappela is cute little film with great performances. And it definitely keeps you hooked till the end. However, the problematic bits in the film linger on even after you leave the hall.
(The review has been edited after publication to reflect the editorial position of The Kochi Post)