“Kunju Daivam is a film that gives hope and faith in this mad, bad world,” writes Sanjay Gopinath.
Kunju Daivam, directed by Jeo Baby, is a Malayalam film released in 2018. Kunju means small, and Daivam means God. No, it has nothing to do with ‘God of Small Things.’
A simple story that works magic
I’ve always considered story as the core of any film. You can have a beautiful background score, wonderful cinematography, great actors et al – but if the story is not properly told, the film falls flat on its face. At the core of Kunju Daivam is a beautiful story, narrated through the protagonist Ousepachan, aka Joseph J Eerali. Ousepachan is a 6th standard boy who lives with his mother and paternal grandfather, as his father works abroad. Ably helping his mother and grandpa, Ousepachan is shown as the ‘man’ in the house.
But, Ousephan is a lazy student with his set of peccadillos. We never see him averse to going to school, but like most of us during those days, he wants the exam to get postponed as he has not studied. A pious boy, he relies on his prayers to influence the gods. He earnestly prays to them to make the teacher fall from the bike or for the ailing ex-president to die – all to get his exams postponed. The innocence displayed by the 10-11-year-old is writ in every word and small-act of Ousepachan. We immediately fall in love with him because we all were all Ousepachans once upon a time.
Kunju Daivam eventually unfolds as a story about the transformation of Ousepachan into a more mature individual who realises the futility of prayers that are not backed by honest actions. All the other characters revolve around him. Adish, who essayed Ousepachan as a child, won the national award for his role. The cast, with no stars or celebrity actors puts up a fantastic show, magically transporting us to Ousepachan’s village.
The effectiveness of message
As young kids growing up in India, most of us would have been inculcated with the importance of prayers. The innocence in us often made us believe in the exclusive power of these prayers, like Ousepachan did. We got into direct hotline communication (without realising they were only one way) with gods. We too relied on the power of prayers, to make our wishes come true. We entered into deals with gods in exchange of favours. Somewhere down in our lives, when we lost our innocence through the taste of real life, we moved away from these prayers.
Through the exuberant young boy, Kunju Daivam stresses on the power of good over the power of God. The messages are simple yet powerful.
- Nothing replaces good deeds, especially those done selflessly. You may do few small wrongs to get there, but they are fine. I may sound controversial, but I tend to toe that line. Follow the Dharma of Krishna and not Rama.
- It is easy to preach goodness. The real test is when you need to execute them, especially through a sacrifice. This real test separates the wheat from the chaff.
- Path to goodness is never easy. Acknowledge that. There is a good chance you get some samaritans to help you on the way.
The message may seem commonplace, but what the film does brilliantly is to reinforce the messages soulfully, instead of listing them down as three bullet points.
The power of subtlety
There have been many films aiming to build on the power of good deeds. But Kunju Daivam is different as the story is told through the eyes of a 6th grader, with all his naughtiness, foibles and innocence. Setting the story in a quaint village instead of a fast-paced city helps a great deal. The story does not have any thrilling moments, any plot-twisters, or one-liners to carry back home. However, each character is relatable as they carry their share of good and bad in them. We easily relate to Ousepachan’s mother, the priest, the school teacher, and other characters. The director took special care not to overplay emotions, though the plot could have been easily taken in that direction. The careful handling helps the film a great deal.
Kunju Daivam is a film that gives hope and faith in this mad, bad world. There is enough space for each one of us to show goodness. It is a stroll back into our childhoods that make us smile. We come out of an experience realising that there is enough time left to spread the divinity in us, and impact lives around in a positive way.
Sanjay works as a marketer at an MNC in Bangalore to make a living. You usually find him maneuvering the vicious cycle of Read,Think,Write. You can connect with him here.
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