Why can’t masala films be made with some clarity and depth? Why is it that a full-on commercial film is more about the antics than the time given to an engaging screenplay? “Kaapa” is Shaji Kailas’s latest venture into an age-old genre. Gangster families in Thiruvananthapuram have been in head-on collisions with each other for years. There is no fixed timeline for this rivalry but each family one-upping the other is the basic plotline of “Kaapa.”
‘Kaapa’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
“Kaapa” stands for Kerala Anti-social Activities Prevention Act” (KAAPA), a law enacted in Kerala only a few times to conduct crackdowns on various anti-social elements, as the name suggests. The film begins with a riot-like situation in Thiruvananthapuram, and a car carrying Anand crashing into a wall. Once Anand is out of the car and reaches a safe place, he calls a lady to inform her that he is on his way to meet her. The film takes us back to months ago when Anand and his wife Binu were expecting a child, but Binu has a history of mental health issues. The doctor informs them that if she is mentally happy, the pregnancy will be smooth. Anand is happy to help her with it, but he leaves it up to her if she wants to keep the baby or not. It is not mentioned at this point why Binu had experienced trauma in the past, but Anand comes across as a genuinely loving husband who would do anything for her safety and the safety of their unborn child. As they reach home, they are visited by Arumanayakam from the police special branch, who is doing routine checkups. When Binu mentions her full name, Arun is taken aback and realizes who she is. He asks her briefly about her family, to which she responds briefly as well. Binu is unperturbed by Constable Arun’s interest in her life, and Anand seems a bit confused about what is happening. Binu and Anand have been happily married for a few years, and Anand is a loving husband who, at this point, is unaware of many stories about to be revealed to him. The constable requested that Anand meet him at the station later in the evening and not let his wife know about it. Binu is not disturbed by the presence of a constable at her home or the fact that he is aware of her past and the troubles her family went through. She comes across as a strong woman who is not swayed by such mind games or tactics.
On meeting Anand, constable Arun reveals the dark history of the gang wars that continued in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Binu Thrivikraman is the sister of the guy who was killed by Kotta Madhu, the tyrannizing upcoming gang leader, years ago. Binu was the witness to her brother’s death, and since she remained mentally unstable for a long period of time. There is another gang led by Latheef, who is a rival to Kotta Madhu’s gang, and he publishes Capital Crimes, a local newspaper that covers only crime stories. The number of gang wars that had occurred in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram forced the then government to enact “Kaapa” to arrest as many rowdies and gang leaders as possible, and since then, every year, a list of accused who are still not caught as per “Kaapa” is published by the local police. The list has had Binu Thrivikraman’s name since the act was enacted. Anand is shocked to see her name in it, as he is sure Binu is anything but a gangster. He knows his wife, and he is sure there has been a misunderstanding, for Binu Thrivikraman is mentioned as a male in the list of names, while Binu here is a woman.
Anand is confused to know of Binu’s past and her family’s tryst with gang wars. He cannot believe that it was Binu who led a gang war without any of her photos being published. The name Binu Thrivikraman was enough for any supporters of Binu to run the ring without anyone’s face. Anand is sure this is another Binu and not the woman he married. The constable asks him to approach Latheef and Kotta Madhu to make sure her name is removed from the list. Anand starts the process of removing her name from the list. He is asked by Constable Arun to approach Kotta Madhu and his wife Prameela, who works at the collectorate. He gets to meet her, and he shares this dilemma with her. He is stopped by Madhu’s henchman, Jabbar. Prameela initially does not help him, and she informs her husband of Anand’s visit. Anand also reveals his wife’s identity, which enrages Madhu and Jabbar. Anand comes across as a genuine man who wants to save his pregnant wife at any cost. He would not want her to go through any more mental trauma, which would affect not just her but their child as well. Anand goes from pillar to post to understand the rivalry between the gangs here in Thiruvananthapuram. To avoid his wife Binu getting involved, he sends her away to his hometown so that she can have a safe pregnancy.
‘Kaapa’ Ending Explained: Does Latheef Get His Revenge? Is Madhu Dead Or Alive?
Anand keeps meeting with constable Arun, who keeps giving more information about the ensuing gang war, which is under control right now but was at its worst a few years ago. Anand is informed by another police officer of a possible attack on Madhu’s life today, which will resolve a lot of Anand’s issues. Anand wonders if he meant Madhu would be killed and he informs Prameela of this possible attack. Though Prameela informs Madhu of the same, this doesn’t stop the attackers from striking Madhu. He survives the attempt on his life, but he is aware of his attacker. Latheef is the man behind the attack on Madhu, and he makes sure Latheef is made aware of the fact that Madhu knows of his involvement. Madhu is traumatized by a past incident that keeps haunting him regularly. Madhu had bribed a young boy by offering him and his family food, and in return, the boy was asked to commit a crime. The boy was trained to throw a bomb at a prospective assassin. The boy does as he is told, but that ruins his life as he ends up in juvenile jail. The young boy is now an adult and meets Madhu. Madhu is guilt-ridden about what he took from a boy who had a bright future, and he states that this guilt will remain with him till his last breath.
Latheef comes to meet Anand and Binu at his parent’s home for the naming ceremony of their kid. Binu is quite friendly with Latheef around, and Anand wonders if this is just an act of Binu being unaware of Latheef’s past. Latheef, though, requests that Anand speak to Prameela and Madhu about letting Latheef live in the city. Latheef describes a series of incidents that took place in the city when Anand left. Latheef brings out all his artillery to target Madhu and his family. Madhu, though, makes sure he saves himself, his family, and Jabbar from the onslaught. Madhu is aware of who is behind the attack, and in retaliation, he burns down Latheef’s newspaper establishment and targets everyone who were in cahoots with Latheef to eliminate Madhu and his family. Latheef’s nephew, Nazeer, who was driven out of the city by Madhu, is supposed to come back to the city to attend his mother’s funeral. Madhu had threatened to kill him if he ever set foot in the city due to their previous rivalry. Nazeer lands in Thiruvananthapuram, but Madhu makes it clear that Nazeer won’t be touched in and around the airport premises, but he cannot make any promises once he is out and leaves the premises to head home. Police are forced to put Nazeer on a flight back to the UAE, and he is unable to see his mother one last time. Madhu is also keen on taking part in the local elections, and people are sure that he will win.
Latheef, though, is scared for his life if Madhu comes to power, and hence he requests that Anand speak to Madhu and his wife and request that they let Latheef be and let there be a ceasefire. Latheef, at this point, has lost all options to survive in his city. He believes Anand has a hold over Prameela and Madhu because Madhu trusts Anand. Anand is a kindhearted person who believes only in the goodness of other people, including Latheef and Madhu. Anand, though, wants nothing to do with this gang war once his wife’s name was removed from Kaapa, he makes one last attempt to help Latheef on insistence from Binu. Anand is the mediator for the meeting that takes place between Latheef and Madhu. Latheef puts forward the ceasefire options from his side, and Madhu agrees to them. Madhu is joined by Jabbar and other henchmen.
On the way back to his car, Madhu is killed by the man whose life Madhu had ruined. The man hurls a bomb, and Madhu dies instantly. Madhu agreed to a ceasefire only on the insistence of Prameela, who was influenced by Anand’s plea. Anand was unaware of the plan to kill Madhu, and he was taken by surprise. Anand was blindsided by Latheef and his team, who double-crossed him and took advantage of the trust Madhu and Prameela had in him. Latheef wanted to avenge the fact that his nephew was not allowed to see his sister’s mortal remains. Latheef could not live with the fact that Madhu had so much power, which would surpass basic human decency to let a son attend his mother’s funeral. Latheef’s anger, fueled by this incident, led to Madhu being killed by the man who had all the reasons to see him dead. Anand requests Prameela and informs her he is coming for the funeral which was the first scene of the film. Anand attends Madhu’s funeral, but Jabbar and Prameela are hostile towards him. Anand is unable to convince them that he was not involved in the killing of Madhu, and he leaves the premises at once. Anand feels used by Latheef, and he is not sure if he can live with the guilt for long.
Madhu always wore a black colored ring which was a symbol of him taking over the reins of power from another man, who was the previous owner of that ring. Prameela decides to take the reins of power after Madhu’s passing, and she is aware of who now owns that ring after all. Prameela rings Anand and requests him to let her speak to Binu. Binu is shown wearing Madhu’s ring. Prameela is aware of it, for, after Madhu’s autopsy, only the ring worn by him was never found by the doctors. It is revealed that Binu is, after all, the faceless gang leader of the Binu gang, who orchestrated plenty of killings before and attempted to kill Madhu by being in cahoots with Latheef. Latheef and Binu’s family were family friends who now avenged their families by eliminating Madhu. Anand isn’t aware of Binu’s real identity, but Binu is ready to face Prameela anytime. This sets the stage for a sequel where the viewers would see two strong women avenging their families most brutally. Prameela is hell-bent on avenging Madhu, and Binu will also come out all guns blazing to protect her family.
A gangster action drama is something Shaji Kailas is not new to. Talking about the state laws, the power of the police, and the anti-social elements are regular features in plenty of his films. “Kaapa” is not different from any of his previous outings. The only difference to notice was the presence of strong female characters, but they were not given much to do except for at the climax of the film. “Kaapa” has a long screenplay that takes time to develop into a tight structure, making the film dull after a point. None of the characters are interesting, and no one carries any graph or arc to understand their mindset. Madhu’s guilt was not enough to establish him as a gray character. Anand felt like the good guy in a film filled with people who have done plenty of bad things. The women required more screen time to prove themselves to be important for the narrative. The direction was all over the place, and the cinematography was banal.
“Kaapa” could have been so much better if the screenplay had been tighter, which would have helped to edit out plenty of unnecessary plotlines. The fight sequences also felt repetitive after a point. Prithviraj’s performance as Madhu felt like him duplicating many characters he has portrayed in the past. There’s nothing new here. Asif Ali’s talent as an incredible actor is wasted in this film. The only character that stood out was Jabbar, played by Jagadish, the veteran Malayalam actor. The female characters were hit-and-miss. It’s high time we brought on female writers to write stories from a female perspective instead of men writing “strong female characters” who end up delivering nothing. “Kaapa” is anything but an engaging film.
“Kaapa” is a Malayalam-language film running at theaters near you.