By Mani Prabhu

When Karthi recently took to stage, tagging his festival release, Kaashmora, as a simple entertainer sans much experimentation, it did come across as a timorous move to cash in on some lowered expectations.  But watching the movie today, I could see why he was forced into voicing the disclaimer. Gokul’s third venture, which on first-look gives a lot of innovative fantasy-genre vibes, ends up being an attempt to interlace the usual period-war-drama with the quintessential horror-comedy.  Not a bad idea, I would say. But the clever ploy that it is supposed to be, gets reduced to an excuse to dish out long played-out humour tropes, mainly because the two elements never really gel.

At least, they are not made out to. Karthi, playing the beefed up, commander-in-chief (Raj Nayak) in a late, twenty five minute stretch, certainly looks the part. He almost nails the demeanour too. All the ambitiously conceptualized CGI aren’t particularly cringe-worthy either. Never at any point, do you felt a paucity of ‘efforts’. But yet, these stretches are mostly unconvincing, the writing not really allowing you to overlook the paucity of budgets. Things never get to the point of ‘frustrating’, but you keep getting distracted. And now, the hows and whys of the whole period backdrop start getting inevitable.

More so, after a rollicking pre-interval block, where Karthi playing to his strengths as the quack exorcist trapped in a real ghost-hostage situation, brings alive the best moments of the film, along with Vivek.  The tropes are the same, but they are brilliantly staged and enacted.  We almost get our money’s worth. The actor, in this character, mostly repeats the body language he has now mastered over years, but even within this limitation, he manages to conjure up enough humour to keep us in splits. The zing is still pretty much missing, but Gokul’s writing is much more compelling when he is playing around with light-hearted sarcasm. And as a result, the first hour keeps the laughs coming, despite the film’s inability to keep us engrossed.

I walked out wondering how better would have Kaashmora been if it had chosen to take itself less seriously and concentrated more on exploring the farcical dynamics between a ruthless ghost and a quack-warlock getting a dose of his own medicine. When Nayanthara and Santhosh Narayanan can’t save a period drama setting, why have it in the first place?