Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Kadal" (Language - Tamil) (2013) - Movie Review

There has never been an enjoyable experience of watching a Tamil film in US especially  from the ones with the actors and directors I have admired. Here is Maniratnam who has been officially and unnecessarily hailed as the best director of India comes with his new film “Kadal” (Sea). It is a reckless work of movie making. With cinematography by Rajiv Menon and music by A. R. Rahman being the two most standard outstanding factor in his films, this literally sinks in and takes its audience along with it to be drowned.

“Kadal” begins at a seminary where Sam Fernando (Arvind Swami) and Bergmans (Arjun) meet in the playground. Sam we come to know through the teasing of Bergmans is from a well to do family. Why he chose to be here is never answered, discussed or debated. Bergmans is a fine student and a funny one. He tries to make the best out of where he is as he optioned for seminary to escape the poverty his family is going through thereby supporting them as well. Sam does not speak or socialize nor does he even emote anything of a liking towards Christianity. He simply sits and tries to avoid Bergmans as he might be too much fun and temptation is the worst devil. Within five minutes into the film, Bergmans commits the supposed “sin” which is of flesh and Sam as a faithful servant of the “Lord” rats him out. While I can understand the obligation Sam has, he does not hear Bergmans out and Bergmans on the other hand erupts like a volcano vowing revenge of a cruel kind to Sam. Despite the lack of characterization or justification on the actions and consequences in between these two people, I was little excited to see where this is going to take me.

The movie shifts from there and takes us through the tough life of a prostitute’s son Thomas or Thommey who grows to be played by Gautham Karthik in the village near Nagerkoil (as I can guess with the slang). When we meet six or seven year old Thomas, he is lying on his dead mother followed mercilessly being buried by his supposed father or his mom’s client fisherman (Ponvannan) with the villagers. In this comes Father Sam Fernando to renew and rejuvenate the Church and there by Christianity. He encounters the tough grown young kid Thommey and has a touching scene when he records his voice in a tape recorder. Maniratnam even at that point of poor introduction gave hope. This above two paragraph happens in the first ten minutes and after that it is a display of disaster.

The film picks up the thirty year old trend of boy meets girl and falling for her instantaneously without any explanation. The girl out here is Thulasi Nair who is supposed to be the cute and bubbly childish character giving the sort of lost childhood to Thommey. Instead it falls off just as childishly and awkwardly as it can get. Thommey becomes the faithful follower of Father Sam and thereby fishes and makes a living from what I could grasp. Do not know where he sleeps, eats or rest but he merely is there to be a character in a paper.

Bergmans character comes into the story which becomes a terrible exercise in poor form of story telling. Soon enough it suddenly becomes the battle of good and evil. In between that is Thommey, the young and upcoming individual with life ahead of him. His deviation from the “good” to “evil” does not take much nor does it involve ground breaking second act. By the time intermission arrives, we have merely witnessed some good cinematography with some songs A. R. Rehman ventures out providing some sort of entertainment. Father Sam and Bergmans are to be seen as the pall bearers of good and evil respectively and their struggle should reveal the contemplation and confusion in the young Thommey. The concept is admirable but without giving it shape and scenes that justify and make us believe in those is where this film falters beyond proportion. Bergmans motivations are random and kills for simplest of reasons. Thommey once becomes his disciple kills people and repents later and even feels for his father dying in his arms who has humiliated, insulted, discarded and abused him right from as a kid. His sudden shift in emotions are found to be nowhere. The film is a collection of those moments that are unexplained and unfound to stand upon.
Then begins the arduous exercise of the extended fight and love stricken couple followed by revelations, followed by the extended climax that brings you down all the littlest hope you ever had in this film maker and more so in the industry. This 164 minutes of severe construction on how to make a bland, boring and blatantly bad film making saddens me further. While I do not consider Maniratnam as a great director, he is one of a kind in the mix of senseless entertainers in the Tamil film industry. I have thoroughly enjoyed his “Nayagan” despite its faithfulness to “The Godfather”, I have admired his comic sensibilities in “Thiruda Thiruda”, despite its senseless entertainment and I consider his “Iruvar” as his best film till date despite being hated by many. His last venture of “Ravanan” was equally disastrous and he follows it up with “Kadal”. I can only hope he picks himself and goes back to the roots of the film making he built his career on that involved more than stunning cinematography and soothing and inventive soundtracks. Before all the aforementioned films, he began his career with “Pagal Nilavu” which is a run of a mill story about rich man in a village causing atrocity for his own good. It had Murali, Revathi, Radhika and Sarath Babu, the usual suspects in these kind of films. It also had Satyaraj as villain adding to the predictability but he gives a dimension to this character who is evil but loving towards his family. It has an ending that ends in a forced suicide which was unheard of (of course contrived from “Uthiri Pookkal”). That is the Maniratnam we need now for a better film. 

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