A woman is found dead at her home. The cops suspect murder and get on with the investigation, meticulously questioning and probing every possible suspect. Ee Kanni Koodi (Through these eyes), another K.G. George gem, is one of the finest investigative thrillers in Malayalam, which also happens to be relatively less discussed, like most of his films.
The frames are stark, realistic in trademark style—it begins with the long shot of a house, with an iron gate enclosing the compound about 100 metres away from the house. A man knocks, jots down a note. A while later, another man enters the premises. When he gets no response after tattooing the bell, he approaches the police. And so we are introduced to Kumudam and her story.
Kumudam (Aswini) we are told is a sex worker, much in demand amongst the rich and well-heeled. Her characterisation begins with intrigue, mystery, and we easily fall into the trap along with rest of the characters in judging her. The beautiful widow who is often described by the men as mysterious, dignified, pricey, and rather strict. Even her pimp (Jagadeesh) doesn’t hide his respect when he talks about her (“She wasn’t like the rest. It’s evident she came from a good family.”) But the underlying disdain for her profession is plain in every man’s account of her.
K.G. George, like he did with Yavanika, studiously takes us through the investigation, diligently questioning the ones directly or indirectly linked to her and thereby leading us to her story. Inspector Raveendran’s (Saikumar) characterisation is similar to Dy.SP Jacob Iraali (Yavanika), a no-nonsense cop who is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Her past is unveiled through the yarns of the various people known to her. It also splits open a lot of hypocrisies in the society, unmasking the “pakal manyanmar.” The bad karma comes back to visit ageing local planter Mamachan (Thilakan), a former client of Kumudam’s, when the cops seek him out for questioning on the day of his daughter’s engagement. The wedding, understandably, is called off. A college lad cries himself hoarse when the cops nail him, petrified of his dad knowing his ‘dirty secret.’
Her parents are living a life of misery and solitude, cursing their daughter for daring to walk out on them. It’s also through them that another name slips in—Susan Philip, her real name. A carefree 22-year-old who loved paintings and artists, who was adored by her dad and constantly nagged by a mom who was worried about her overreaching marriageable age.
It’s another character who helps us piece together a lot of the other puzzling aspects. Her child’s nanny! She frantically runs into the frame, heartbroken to discover that one of her favourite people in the world is no more. It’s also a start for us to get drawn towards Kumudam, probably empathise with the woman she has turned into.
Her marriage to a painter, we are told, begins on a happy note and ends in a tragedy. The painter husband is a cinematic cliché—the archetypal artist struggling to make ends meet, finds himself reaching for the bottle for comfort.
After his death, we witness the familiar exploitation a lonely beautiful widow with a child is often made to endure (especially in films). The antagonist by way of description is Charlie—a crafty businessman who at first lures her with sympathetic words and cruelly uses her for his own gains and forces her to take up sex work eventually. But George characteristically outlines him with a detached nonchalance, which makes it impossible to judge him. Look out for the scene where he narrates the portion to the police.
What makes the film a gut-wrenchingly emotional experience is the last 15 minutes, when the truth is out in the open. And it's nothing one imagines. The husband comes back from a mental asylum and faces the shattering reality of his wife’s trade. He has heard enough snide remarks from various quarters to understand that Kumudam is his Susan. George is clinical, yet strangely humane in the way he lets the husband see the plight of the woman he loved deeply. Two distraught lovers finally meet, yet they are aware of the impenetrable wall of morality between them. They cry, hug and their eyes still brim over with love and affection. But she is a battered soul and nothing she knows can ever unite them again.
In one instance he asks for her forgiveness, and tells her to put it all in the past, but then the treacherous dregs of that very past starts knocking at the door. He stands in another room and watches helplessly as she tries to dissuade her customers away. Men promise her drinks and money and you know she is crying inside. When he can take it no longer, he grabs a whiskey bottle just so that he can forget this traumatic scene that he just witnessed.
In the end, when Susan consumes poison and lunges at her husband’s arms, we know that at long last, she has found peace. At least her son will have his father. We also realise how subtly her character grows on us, how we are unhurriedly erasing all the grey areas and truly empathising with her.
Ee Kannikoodi is a strange concoction for an investigative thriller. There is intrigue, drama, and fascinating characters but then at the core is a heart-breaking tale of love and loss.
Comments material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, abusive, slanderous, racially, ethically or sexually hateful or offensive, or embarrassing to any other person or entity are prohibited.
Fullpicture is an exclusive, comprehensive, online English magazine on Malayalam cinema, put together by a team of experienced journalists who share a passion for everything about Malayalam cinema. The idea is to put out well-written and well-researched features, exclusive interviews,...