Once Upon A Time in Kochi review: Arjun Ashokan shines in this poorly-written film

Director Nadirshah's latest outing lacks the soul and elements needed for commercial cinema and offers nothing new.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published:Jun 04, 2024

Once Upon a Time in Kochi is directed by Nadirshah

Once Upon A Time in Kochi (Malayalam)

31-05-2024, Comedy Drama, 2 hours 11 minutes U
  • Main Cast:Devika Sanjay, Mubin M Rafi, Arjun Ashokan, Shine Tom Chacko, and Raffi
  • Director:Nadirshah
  • Producer:Kalandoor Entertainments
  • Music Director:Hesham Abdul Wahab
  • Cinematography:Shaji Kumar



Once Upon a Time in Kochi, directed by Nadirshah, isn’t a much-anticipated film and has missed quite a few release dates.

The Malayalam movie marks the debut of Mubin M Rafi as the lead actor, while child actor Devika Sanjay is debuting as a female lead.

Nadirshah is known for his commercial hits—Amar Akbar Anthony (2015; his debut directorial) and Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan (2016). He is also a popular mimicry artist and singer.

However, the filmmaker hasn’t delivered a big success since Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan.

Coming to his latest venture, Once Upon a Time in Kochi is a comedy entertainer against the backdrop of the drug trade in Kochi city. Sadly, it lacks the soul and elements needed for commercial cinema.

Now, without much ado, let’s delve into the synopsis:

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Arjun Ashokan plays SI Anand Das in the movie

Arjun Ashokan plays SI Anand Das in the movie. (X)

Janaki (Devika Sanjay) is a carrier of cocaine in Kochi. She enters the drug business as she has to repay her bank loan and deal with her financial issues.

Janaki meets Hibi Nicholas (Mubin Rafi), who had a crush on her during their college days.

Meanwhile, the sub-inspector of police Anand Das (Arjun Ashokan) is keen to nab the drug dealers.

Once Upon A Time in Kochi starts with police investigating the disappearance of Anand, where Janaki and Hibi are involved.

At this time, the viewers won’t have a clue of how all these characters are interconnected.

Interstingly, Anand gets a marriage alliance from Janaki’s family, but she refuses. However, he finds out that she is a part of the drug dealers’ network and starts probing the case from this angle.

By this time, Hibi also gets involved in the drug deals, out of his love for Janaki.

How Janaki, Hibi, and Anand tackle the situation and get rid of the drug deals form the crux of the plot.

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One of the positives of the movie is its presentation of events.

For example, through the character of Ramkumar (played by Shine Tom Chacko), the director reveals how actors take up promotional activities by having street food, etc.

The introduction song, which reveals Janaki and Hibi’s love for one another, has been shot well.

The climax fight, which is a comedy of errors, evokes laughter among the audience in theatres.

The music, composed by Hesham Abdul Wahab and Nadirshah, is really good. But the background score doesn’t go well in some scenes.

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Devika Sanjay is the female lead in the film

Devika Sanjay is the female lead in the film. (X)

The major flaw in the movie is that it doesn’t have a fresh plot.

Raffi, who wrote and directed successful films, has penned a mediocre script for Once Upon A Time in Kochi.

Interestingly, he plays the role of Ustad, a local don, in the film. Sadly, the character is quite outdated. We have seen similar characters, who dish out comedy throughout the story but become the saviours at the end, in many movies.

Films based on the drug trade are nothing new in Malayalam.

And, in this case, the viewers expected a comedy entertainer, as claimed by its makers. But the latter fail to deliver their promise.

Further, the non-linear format in the plot initially confuses the audience. However, they get a grip on the events as the film reaches the interval bang.

Also, there is a lack of pure comedy that’s usually expected from a Raffi film. The writer-director is, after all, a master of humour!

A better script would have made this flick more engaging and entertaining.

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Arjun Ashokan, as sub-inspector Anand, is the star performer of the movie. The young actor gives his best to the role.

Mubin Rafi, the son of the scriptwriter Raffi, makes a decent debut with the film. He delivers what’s expected of him without hiccups.

Devika Sanjay, as drug carrier Janaki, is impressive. However, Janaki lacks the punch usually needed for such a powerful role because of the poor writing.

Raffi, as Ustad, is okayish and offers nothing new.

Johny Antony plays a serious character as Janaki’s father and is apt. The actor finally gets a break from his comedy roles.


Once Upon A Time in Kochi has an interesting plot. But the weak script plays a spoilsport.

(Views expressed here are personal.)