Director MA Nishad’s Kinar [Well] has a heart of gold. It makes a passionate case for people who are denied of their basic human right to have access to potable water and air. It empathises with the innocent people the government wronged and imprisoned as Maoists and Islamic terrorists. It is a film staunchly political, led by women protagonists who selflessly take on a corrupt and insensitive system.
But Kinar isn’t a work well done. The narrative is cluttered and old-fashioned, and any objectivity in the plot is lost in the flux of melodrama that the film is founded on.
Three journalists from different media houses go in pursuit of three stories, and their routes end with one person: Indira (Jayaprada), a Malayalee woman, is the widow of a geologist who was wrongly indicted as Maoist and thrown in jail. Through Indira’s life story, the scribes unearth the details of a village’s struggles to survive a long drought. Nishad’s attempt to balance the social commentary with the fourth estate, the media, isn’t very effective, especially because there are three of them doing the work that a single person could have done.
The core plot of the film revolves around three women, Indira, Raseena (Parvathy Nambiar), and Sugandhi (Archana) who, though from different social orders, build a camaraderie. It is a little unsettling that most of the women-oriented films produced in this part of the world are sombre. While men get to tell stories of any kind, be funny or flawed, women are constantly cast in films about distress and misery, where they have to wail and scream. In Kinar, Jaya Prada is the motherly force, Parvathy is the damsel in distress, and Archana, the wailer. While Parvathy manages to render a convincing performance, the two other actresses fumble away. The former has an awkward body language which can hardly pass for a middle-class Malayalee woman who has never been anywhere farther than the end of her street, but later runs pillar to post to disentangle the red tape a Tamil village’s fate is caught in. And, Archana goes over the top in every scene, recreating 80s cinema where loud social dramas can happily belong.
Indira moves to Puliyanmala, a remote village on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border after the untimely demise of her husband, a geologist (Joy Mathew). His idealism and honesty had earned him several enemies in politics and bureaucracy, who worked hand in glove to tag him as an insurgent and sent him to jail. Accompanying Indira to Puliyanmala is Raseena, a young girl whose husband, accused of being a terrorist, is in prison. They migrate to the village for a peaceful life, but what they witness there is a severe drought that neither the government nor NGOs pay any attention to. The only water spring in the village lies in the ancestral land of Indira on the Kerala side of the border. A greedy Panchayat president (Sunil Sughada) and his colleagues, with the backing of land sharks, have barred the villagers from using the well. Now, Indira and Rasina have to embark on a murky legal fight against the powerful forces and bring back life to the dying village.
The film has many characters appear and disappear, without making a mark. For one, Revathi plays a compassionate district collector, a role the veteran actress can sleepwalk through. However, it helps that some of those roles are played by actors who have a weight to their names. They make up – a little – for the lack of depth and nuance in characterizations. The main characters are in black and white, comfortably categorized to ease the story-telling. The villagers are the salt of the earth, and the rich and the powerful are ruthless exploiters lurking around the well all day and night to bar anyone trying to draw some water. The media houses – journalists and editors – are compassionate and fiery defenders of the poor.
The rot in Kinar lies within.
The film has an enjoyable soundtrack – including a cheery dance number sung by KJ Yesudas and SP Balasubramaniam that sings praises of the goodness of Tamilians and Malayalees – but none of them are really memorable.
It is unfortunate that such a compelling plot ends up being a clumsy attempt at cinema, which makes little use of the scope of the medium. Kinar, rather than being subtle and composed in approach, chooses to shout social messages from the rooftop.
The Kinar review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.