Kotee Movie Review: ‘Daali’ Dhananjaya plays a very likeable and honest man in Param’s ‘Kotee’, which works more often than not

The film stars Dhananjaya, Ramesh Indira, and Moksha Kaushal. It takes too long to get to the crux, but there are many lovely scenes along the way.
Kotee Movie Review

Kotee Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Vaishno Studios,Jio Studios
Director : Param
Music Director : Vasuki Vaibhav,Nobin Paul

Kotee (Dhananjaya) is a mover. He helps people shift homes, and when he is not doing this, he is a cab driver. In this job, he says, he is moving people instead of things. It’s a nice line, and Param’s film is filled with lines like these. Here’s another! Kotee is a good man. He is so good that he has not even taken the bar of soap from a hotel that everyone takes when they check out. Early on, he beats up someone for cheating, and the man asks Kotee to stop acting like a saint. Everyone is corrupt, the man says, and gets to the punch: “When everyone is naked, the one who is clothed should feel ashamed.” Kotee lives with his mother, brother, and sister, and he wants to raise their standard of living. The amount he sets as a target is one crore. But can someone as sincere as Kotee earn this amount, without cheating or killing or stealing?

After setting out this crux, the film takes its time getting to the issue – and at least in the first half, this is a good thing. We are immersed in the world of Kotee, and Dhananjaya creates an extremely convincing, extremely likeable man. Good men are often boring on screen. As the saying goes, Ravana is more dramatic than Rama. But along with Dhananjaya’s performance, Param’s writing ensures that Kotee’s goodness is brought out in interesting ways. This is not the simple kind of goodness like, say, helping a blind person cross the street, or sharing a meal with a beggar. In Janatha City, the film’s location, life is more complex, and it’s harder to be a good man. To a bad man, Kotee says, “I have never asked you to stop doing bad things. You don’t ask me to start doing them.” 

This bad man, the villain of the story, is Dinoo Saavkar. (He’s played with creepy menace by Ramesh Indira).) He owns a theatre, which is the hub for all his illegal activities. Kotee borrows money from him, but he prefers to pay back the instalments (with inflated interest rates) rather than get rid of the loan at one shot by doing some shady work that Dinoo Saavkar wants him to do. The subtext of the film, in other words, is how difficult it is to stick to your principles in a world where… even the heroine is a kleptomaniac. Yes, Navami (Moksha Kushal) is actually seeing a therapist to solve this issue. Can you still hold on to your goodness when your new car is stolen and your family is attacked and you are slapped for breaking something while moving (and it’s actually your co-worker who broke the thing)? How long before Kotee decides that enough is enough, and that he’d rather do whatever Dinoo Saavkar wants him to do?

This dilemma, I feel, should have been the interval point, but we get to it only around the two-hour mark. The early portions of the film are endearingly old-fashioned. The narration is linear. The relationship between Kotee and his family is depicted with much love. Navami’s desire to dance in a tiger costume during the festival of Mahanavami is neatly tied to a parallel storyline about thieves who wear tiger costumes. But after a while, the leisurely approach in this two-hour-fifty-minute film begins to feel counterproductive. There is no urgency in the second half, and the question of whether Kotee will do what Dinoo Saavkar wants him to do loses a lot of its suspense. This is not to say that the film should have been edited down to a shorter running time. The point is that even the most leisurely of narratives needs to get to its crux, the thing that sets the plot in motion and makes us worry about the plight of the protagonist.

The other issue with the film is that the Navami track just does not work. Kotee and his family and Dinoo Saavkar are written so well, but when it comes to the heroine, all we get is a bunch of cliches. The “cuteness” in her portions with Kotee look artificial when compared to, say, the melodramatic rootedness of Kotee’s moments with his mother and brother and sister. There’s a lovely scene where Kotee discovers that his own brother is crooked, but not in an entirely evil way. The way this episode lays out the shades of grey in most of us is beautiful. Even with its shortcomings, the film has many such episodes – like a bit about a fridge, or the explanation for Kotee’s addiction to ice cream, or the satisfying ending that has just enough of a twist to make it very rewarding. Like Kotee the man, Kotee the film wants to be very, very good. It may not succeed all the time, but it has an honesty of purpose that makes us feel – even through the lulls – that this goal has been achieved.

Rate Kotee Movie - ( 0 )
Public/Audience Rating
Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.