Our Hero - Shammi!
Kumbalangi Nights directed by Madhu C Narayanan was met with almost universal acclaim (plus a lot of warm fuzzies in the stomach) when it was released in 2019. To this date, it keeps finding lots of new viewers who end up raving about the film, thanks to the new age of web streaming. From the story to its equally engaging and warm characters and not overlooking the serene music, it’s not hard to see why it’s getting all the love and appreciation. It also had an equally talented ensemble cast that put forward their affectingly original performances.
Kumbalangi Nights - Enter Shammi
The Malayali social media and pop culture also weren’t slow on picking up on the bits and pieces of the movie and turning them into popular memes and trolls. It was Shammi’s antics although, which was the ‘hero’ of these memes. Was it his dialogues or the superlative performance by Fahad Faasil that made the character so popular? “Shammi” is in fact so infamous that it has become a common colloquial word for people with certain odd behaviour.
“The Perfect Man?”
From the get-go, Shammi is presented with a very unnerving yet familiar vibe. In front of a mirror grooming his moustache, his introduction scene wonderfully sets up what’s about to come at us. As the movie progresses, it becomes a contest of our conscience vs his actions that builds up the essential awkwardness the scenes create. The more he talks, the stronger is the cringe creeping up on the back of our necks. Although it’s dialled down a bit with smartly written humour to make it enjoyable for the audience.
Shammi’s eccentricities were in sorts, slightly exaggerated reflections of a conservative society and its oddities. He walks, talks, and dresses in a way that suggests he’s well mannered and sophisticated. He takes pride in himself for what he is and looks down on other men who cook or don’t have a “proper” job. He is all-knowing but he also wants to be in on every gossip desperately. He invades others’ privacy and makes it his responsibility to correct other people. Seem familiar?
Inspired Origins... Have you known a Shammi?
Sadly, the roots of Shammi seem like an original inspiration from our society itself. The same one that actively involves moral policing couples in parks and judging a person by the modesty of their dress.The people that get angry when others talk about their kinswomen while shaming women online under the guise of trolling.The news channels that leak “sensational” (read salacious) pictures, chats, and videos of a woman’s private moments in the name of journalism and bringing about justice.
Although it’s the subtleness of it in Shammi that makes it much creepier. It makes you wonder how a patriarchal society nurtures a person’s mind to its maturity and subconsciously makes it ignorant. It also justifies it to an enormous extent and labels it as civilized behaviour, remoulding even the women around it. Now and then, he reminds you in parts of your weird uncle or your friend in all sorts of not-so-nice ways.
Almost there but not quite
That’s why the later parts of the movie somewhat disappointed me and prevented me from properly enjoying the shift to tension and thrill that ensued. Although kudos to the makers for fine-tuning that change into a nerve-wracking and suspenseful sequence that was also very solid in terms of the technical aspects. But It took away the awkwardness and relatability of Shammi and threw it away for an engaging screenplay. Shammi was played off as a psycho for a satisfying third act.
It’s not the Shammi that takes a hammer around and ties people up that we should fear. It’s the one that sits on the centre seat of a dining table who mansplains while the rest listen to his preaching, that we need to worry about.
Maybe the writer, Shyam Pushkaran also realizes the same. But he went with the choice to sell the blue pills instead of the red ones. Perhaps that’s why he tried to compensate by writing the women characters as the catalyzers of the beautiful ending that it ultimately comes to. Also, with everything else pitch-perfect, Should one really nitpick?
Let’s hope we see the red flags of a potential Shammi in real life and call him out for his fake guise to win us over before it’s too late.