“Kadal”… Coast analysis

Spoilers everywhere.

Kadal contains what is easily the most gruesome moment in the Mani Ratnam oeuvre, and it occurs in an early scene about a dead prostitute from a Christian fishing community. A few locals take the corpse to church, where the priest refuses to permit this sinner’s burial in a plot inside, and so they take the body to an open ground by the sea and set about digging a grave. When done, they lower the body, now inside an open coffin, and find a leg sticking out – that old joke about the whore who couldn’t keep her legs crossed comes to mind – and one of them sets about breaking the limb, in order to make it fit inside. Over the sickening crunch of bones being broken, the director seems to be telling those who keep moaning that he doesn’t make nice, affecting, middle-class movies like Mouna Raagam anymore exactly where to get off.

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Ratnam spent the first part of his career becoming a legend, and now, it appears, he’s working on his legacy. What else can one do within the mainstream-movie format? How can one use songs and dances and fights and melodrama and yet not end up using them the way they’ve been used earlier? How much does an audience need to be told, and how much can we trust them to get? Can a love story with star children treat this story only incidentally? How does one keep changing the boundaries between characters and archetypes? And, even technically speaking, how much editing can a film survive without its connective tissue snapping off? We sensed, in Raavan(an), a lot of these questions being probed, and Kadal is very much a companion piece to that earlier film (and a much better one), very much an in-transition work of a filmmaker constantly searching for something. Your tolerance for the inevitable rough edges, I suppose, will determine your response to the film. Put differently, and like Raavan(an), Kadal is less for those who want their films to be easily classifiable as good or bad, more for those who like their films interesting. I was riveted.

And the most interesting aspect of Kadal – at least for longtime followers of this director, a self-confessed atheist – is the explicit religiosity. The film begins with the image of a huge cross and ends with a hymn-spouting gathering around Jesus. The first time we see the young hero, it’s a frame with Mother and Child (and this mother is named Sahaya Mary). The heroine Beatrice (Thulasi Nair) – she’s brought up by a nun, just as the nominal hero, Thomas (Gautham Karthik, who has his father’s eyes) is raised by Father Sam (Arvind Swamy) – is sometimes referred to as a dhevadhai, and she’s almost always attired in angelic white. (She’s therefore less of a character than a pristine archetype, an agent of deliverance.) The dialogues are steeped in Christian imagery – dhevadhai, dhevadoothan, saathaan, paralogam – and Bergmans (a snappy Arjun), the antagonist, cannot seem to put together a sentence without a reference to the Devil. (It becomes too much to take, after a point.) And he mocks Sam’s path as aattu mandhai vazhi, which is just another way of referring to a shepherd and his flock. Even a pathogen is labeled aandavan padaicha kirumi.

A question for a future edition of Conversations with Mani Ratnam is surely what prompted him to pick this story, what drew him in, especially when he usually prefers his characters in shades of grey, as embodiments of that dilemma of nallavana-kettavana. Here, the nallavan and the kettavan are cleanly split into two different people, Sam and Bergmans, and another interesting aspect of Kadal is how this primal, almost Biblical, showdown between these  forces of good and evil is engineered through an accident. Sam and Bergmans meet at a seminary. Why is Sam, who comes from a moneyed background, renouncing everything to serve the Lord? The question is raised, but never answered, and this decision to block off Sam’s past serves the character richly. Arvind Swamy has  never brought to a role this kind of shading or physicality (note the scene where he’s startled by the sound of a dusty old church register), and we keep wanting to know more about him. What is it about Sam that makes him so devout, so serious about his faith, when, as Bergmans rightly points out, the Bible doesn’t say you cannot have fun?

With Bergmans, though, there are no questions. The priesthood, to him, is but a means of monthly income to support a large family. He’s evicted from this House of God when Sam exposes him as a womaniser – Satan, after all, is a Fallen Angel – and he swears revenge. “Ippadhaan namma aattaam aarambichirukku,” he tells Sam, and we expect him to put together a systematic plan to bring down Sam, whom he wants not to die but to live and fall into sin. For a straight arrow like Sam, there can be no greater punishment. But Bergmans drifts away and we don’t hear of him for a long time (though, later, these gaps are filled in) – and when he meets Sam again, it’s almost destiny. This unplanned reunion, this accident, carries a charge greater than that of a single man’s determination to bring Sam down – it feels like something cosmic, as if the gods wanted to bring Sam down.

Mainstream filmmaking has everything to do with the clean narrative, shorn of mess – and perhaps in an earlier stage of his career, Ratnam may have made good on Bergmans’s teeth-gnashing words (“Ippadhaan namma aattaam aarambichirukku”) and had him tail Sam and set about his revenge. But life doesn’t always work the way we plan it, and Bergmans’s disappearance adds an unexpected flavour to the story, by making us wonder how and when he will return. (That he will return is a given.) In the meantime, we shift tracks to Sam’s burgeoning relationship with the inhabitants of the coastal village we saw at the film’s beginning, and with Thomas in particular, whom Sam begins to regard as something of a son. (In the scene where Sam affectionately complains about Thomas’s unruly hair, like parents everywhere, he is both Father and father.) There’s a refreshing looseness in the storytelling, with entertaining non-sequitur scenes like the one where a fishmonger forces Sam to buy her wares.

The only drawbacks in the mostly excellent pre-interval portions are the songs. For a while now, I have wondered why Ratnam’s songs – not the ones that play over scenes, like Nenjukkulle, but those in which characters break into exuberant steps – have begun to seem redundant (at best) and intrusive (at worst). When Thomas and his cohorts dance to Eley keechan, it’s not all that different from when Rajinikanth and Mammooty broke free from the “realistic” nature of the film until then and entered the stylised zone of choreography. And when a bride’s anticipation of her wedding night can find form in Jiya jale and when the separation of lovers can be represented through O Priya Priya, why can’t the onset of love be depicted through Adiye? But something has changed, something’s different. Unlike the case in the earlier films, these songs here bring the proceedings to a halt. As standalone music videos, they’re outstanding, but they don’t become an organic part of the film.

Perhaps it’s because Ratnam’s recent narrative style – rooted in the mainstream, yet striving to break free from the clichés of the mainstream – is less accommodating of the traditional elements of conventional cinema, including the at-times aggressive background score. Or maybe it’s because this isn’t the story – in a sense – of Thomas and Beatrice (who’s barely there in the first half), and when we keep cutting away to them in these songs, it’s like we’re beginning to follow a brand new story, while the meat so far involves a different duo, Sam and Bergmans. The songs aren’t that much of an issue in the second half, because we’ve gotten to know Thomas and Beatrice better. (The newcomers, unusual in both looks and performance styles, take a little getting used to, but they slip into their roles pretty well).

There’s possibly a reason we take a while to warm up to Thomas and Beatrice, both as individuals and as a couple. Unlike Sam and Bergmans, who are delineated for us pretty clearly – this is what they did then; this is what they are doing now – Thomas is presented to us through an extreme form of ellipsis (question for later: intentional at the screenplay level, or a byproduct  of editing?), wherein his story is scattered throughout and we have pick up the pieces. On the surface, this character is like the protagonist of Thalapathy, who yearns for a lost mother and who is coerced into a life of crime. But the similarity ends there. In that older film, made by a Ratnam who wasn’t just younger but also a different kind of filmmaker, we are synched to Rajinikanth’s motives at every stage, so we never doubt why he’s doing something. We’re always ahead of him, or at least keeping up with him.

But the Ratnam of today isn’t going to spoon-feed us, and this is what makes his recent films so rewarding in a mainstream context. With Thomas, as with other characters in Kadal, we’re on our toes, constantly playing catch up. Something happens, and it doesn’t make sense immediately, but when we think back, it all comes together satisfactorily. At a later stage, Sam, after an estrangement from Thomas, tells him, “Nee vera paadhayile romba dhooram poyitte-nu kelvi patten,” and we don’t seem to share these feelings that Thomas has turned evil. All we seem to be seeing is a sweetly aimless youth, pottering about the village and Beatrice. In a lovely scene, Beatrice is playing hopscotch and Thomas confesses to her about his wrongdoings. She absolves him – she is an angel, after all; a grown-up Anjali even – but we wonder, at that moment, what he has done to need this absolution. And then we recall the Magudi song sequence, into which all his sinning is compressed. So Ratnam, really, is asking us to hold on to the information from that song, which goes by in a blur, instead of presenting this information over a course of time over the screenplay, so that we are eased into Thomas’s new life.

And when Thomas, after Sam’s fall, affiliates himself with Bergmans, the next available father figure – there’s a third father figure in the character played by Ponvannan – we may feel at first that this transition comes about too quickly. But then we think back to the numerous earlier scenes that have built up to this moment – the young Thomas’s rejection by the villagers around him in  the opening credits; his humiliation when he sought to be baptized – and we see why he says he wants the villagers to fall at his feet. His first father refused to acknowledge him. His second father abandoned him. And hence this third father, Bergmans. And this development leads to the film’s funniest scene (though it’s played with utmost sobriety), where Thomas’s mother, the prostitute from earlier, is disinterred from her unmarked grave and given a Christian burial with full honours – her resting place is the grandest in the vicinity, with a Mother and Child sculpture in the headstone.

As to why Thomas changes back to being good, we may have to remember, along with the influence of the innocent Beatrice, the scene with the Pietà pose, featuring a son with a father instead of a mother. (And the song that plays, Chithirai nila, is the same one that played around his mother.) As to why an apparently godless community turns into a lynch mob upon discovering that its shepherd has sinned, we may have to recall how they have been led into the presence of God after all; we may not have been given a scene where they gathered in church to listen to one of Sam’s sermons, but we have seen their prayers being taken to God through a tape recorder. Would Kadal have been an easier film to embrace – directly, with the heart, rather than it all coming together in the head – had Ratnam given us a scene that explained why Thomas decided to become good again, or a scene of the villagers assembled in church as Sam preached to them? Would that have made their anger more justified, more understandable? Certainly. But it also would have been a very different movie, from a filmmaker with very different ambitions.

And that filmmaker would not have given us the fantastic scene featuring the film’s most intriguing character, Jerina (Lakshmi Manchu). She is an instrument of Evil, and when we see her, first, clutching the crucifix around her neck and in tears, we think the obvious thing. We put together the evidence from the scene around her and conclude that her distress is due to being abandoned by the man she loved, the man who offered her a life together (possibly the one good thing that that bad man did) – but immediately after, we realise the real reason behind her emotions. It’s not because of what happened, but because of what’s going to happen, what she’s about to do. And when she does that thing, the camera stays on her face despite the clamour that ensues behind her. (She’s bathed by an almost-heavenly light, like in a painting by a Renaissance master. Rajiv Menon’s work is exquisite, all the more so for not suffocating the film with beauty.) In this scene, as in the one where Beatrice weeps on being asked about her parents and we assume they are dead, we see subtle variations on tired tropes.

But at other times, we wish we had been given more, shown more. What, for instance, happens to Jerina? We’re told that she’s in paralogam, her heavenly abode. Has she been killed? Was she forced to take her own life? Didn’t Thomas, even once, try to meet Sam after the latter was led away from the village? Where was Beatrice escaping to when we first meet her? And how are we meant to read the key scene where Thomas aids a childbirth (Chithirai nila, again), and his hands, so far stained with the blood of those he’s put to death, are now coloured with blood from a newborn life? It’s as difficult a scene to buy as the one in 3 Idiots, even though we’re given hints of divine intervention, with a picture of Jesus near the mother and with AR Rahman flooding the soundtrack with an ecclesiastical choir.

In Raavan(an), these leaps – or gaps, depending on how you look at them – were somewhat easier to negotiate, because we already knew the characters from the epics. We already knew their backstories and we only needed to follow their forward trajectories, where the film was taking them. But here, because of the ellipses, there are times our grasp on the goings on remains tenuous, and the film’s biggest problem is its downplaying of the battle for Thomas’s soul – which is where the story seemed to be heading after Sam’s fall, when Thomas was lured by the Devil. Thomas’s subsequent return to Sam’s side feels preordained, and not so much the result of a mighty struggle. We get a mighty struggle alright, but a literal one (as opposed to the metaphorical one this good-versus-evil tale seemed to be leading to), in the storm-tossed climax, which features an unconvincing change of heart. There’s a lot of physical grandeur on display, Good and Evil seesawing up and down, but Biblical morality plays also demand emotional grandeur, especially when God makes a triumphant return.

But really, Mani Ratnam and God. Who would’ve thought? Even with respect to the parallel experience of seeing where Ratnam is heading while also holding on to his past, Kadal is never less than interesting. Note, for instance, even in this Biblical universe, the casual reference to foreigners who shoot Indian fisherman, the issue being raised in the context of a character rather than to call attention to the issue itself. There are so many images that recall earlier Ratnam that walking out, I found myself wondering about trains, rains, mirrors and old women – some of which I recalled, and others I did not. The biggest surprise for me, though, came in the scene where Thomas learns about Beatrice from the nun who raised her. I nearly fell off my chair when Beatrice’s childlike condition was attributed to “aazhmanasu seyyara thandhiram.” And here I thought this was a filmmaker who didn’t put much faith in the subconscious.

Copyright ©2013 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

176 thoughts on ““Kadal”… Coast analysis

  1. Come on Rangan – you were riveted. This is your most disappointing review yet. Just because Mani grants you a lengthy review?


  2. Excellent review and brings out the depth of the movie. There are so many subtleities and shades that needs to be experienced. However, I did not like the movie. It was serious and tense right through that made it heavy viewing. I wish there was some comic relief in between.


  3. How many times did you see the film before writing this? So much.. I am now not sure what film I saw! Brilliantly Written. [no seriously, how many times did you watch it?]


  4. Brilliant review, Baradwaj! The movie is still fresh in my head – it’s barely a few hours since I watched it, and I have rarely enjoyed a review more :)
    I liked the movie a lot – not the way I like Kannathil Muthamittal or Mouna Raagam – but in a diff way, and it did more for me, as a snapshot of rural, coastal life than any other recent movie (Neer Paravai was great, but it felt a bit like a series of carefully put together images; this one was more ‘real’; and I esp loved your comment about Rajiv Menon’s cinematography).
    As much as my husband and I liked the movie, my daughter did not; this is her first Mani Ratnam movie in the cinema hall, and well, maybe I’m a little bit disappointed she didn’t like it :( But I don’t blame her; she said she didn’t relate to the lives of the people, and just didn’t “get” the tamil… I too didn’t get the dialect, not for the first five mins anyway. But after that, it felt like skin. Aravind Swamy’s entries into the village – his first and second – were the best part of the movie for me. And Gautam Karthik was really good; who can believe this is his first movie? The girl SO reminded me of Baby Anjali, I kept saying ‘Anjali Paapa’ in the interval :)
    And yeah, Elay Kichaan, as lovely as it was, was just too absurdly out of place. And, funnily enuf, the one song I hated in the album – Magudi Magudi – worked best on screen, as it was the one song that really took the movie forward…


  5. In agreement Baddy! Never felt the load of the film or bored. However, my peeves are with the screenplay. One area in particular. When Bergmans is unable to kill Bea and ‘loses’ the movie is over. The fight in Hurricane Neelam was really meaningless. Could have knocked off at least 10 min. Have not been able to justify the Neelam fights. I was riveted.


  6. Nice review.
    *Spoiler alert*
    There is this one other scene, in the jail with Arvind Swamy wearing a white attire and Arjun wearing a black dress, where I feel he tries to depict starkly the nallavan-kettavan difference between them.
    In my opinion, Father Bergmans was not evicted. He decided to evict himself by refusing to repent for his sins. Another biblical reference where Satan is evicted from paradise because he refuses to obey God.

    Why was Sam treated so harshly by the villagers while Bergmans on the other hand differently? When Bergmans is exposed, the Father tells him how brilliant he is and how well versed he is with the Bible than himself and asks him to repent. In the Magudi song played during the second half, he makes a donation to the church saying “idhu saathan oda pangu”. However, when the villagers beat Sam up and he walks in to the church with the Bishop by his side, the Bishop is furious and says that Sam was caught red handed and can’t escape. He did not even bother to reserve his judgement till he investigated! Perhaps Mani was referring to our nature to mercilessly punish people who claim themselves to be saints but stray off the righteous path.

    And I felt that Mani went way off course to bring Bea back from the dead. He should have let her die. Or perhaps that would be too mainstream as is the case these days where a lot of films have no qualms in killing of the lead characters?!


  7. “Kadal” pulled me out the established comfort zone and yes I didn’t like that experience. One goes to watch a Mani Ratnam film expecting “Excitement” but this film is devoid of it. I felt Ratnam could have lingered more on Thoma’s spiritual crisis after he sides with Bergmans. Nevertheless, I will watch it again as I could not easily put away this film! There is something in it, which is hard to place and makes me want to watch it again!!


  8. Mr. Rangan – Does a Maniratnam movie deserve to be categorized as only “classifiable as good or bad” or “interesting”?
    And this “in-transition” phase if scary, the very thought of the path of transition is nightmarish ! This feeling of “being ditched” crossing over my head repeatedly… And I’ve been wondering if this is what you experienced when you saw ‘Roja’ and felt betrayed! Honestly, ‘Kadal’ had ‘The Maniratnam touch’ only scattered, here and there.
    What do you think of this path of his? I ask this question as someone whose life’s pre-dominant moments are defined by Maniratnam’s films.


  9. Brilliant review as always, BR! I saw the film yesterday morning and quite liked it a lot actually. I was waiting for your review before I see it a second time on Tuesday if only to make sense of all the depth Mani has going on in his latest films. On my first time viewing, I have to agree with what you have written. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

    I also think that I wouldn’t have appreciated Kadal as much as I did if it weren’t for your Raavanan review and Conversations with Mani Ratnam. I completed the latter on Friday night just in time for the film. I think what most helped me with this film was that I wasn’t caught up in my own expectations of a Mani film like I was with Raavanan. I just saw the film for what it was, a unique work of vision. And deconstructing the movie was immensely helped by your book remaining fresh in my memories. I was constantly trying to make sense of why Mani framed a scene in a particular fashion or why he chose certain lines and so on. Not all of it made sense, but it was an invigorating process nonetheless.

    Adiye…, for instance, made no sense to me at all. It was interestingly picturized but I just couldn’t see how the song made sense within the narrative of the film. Mani says in your book a number of times that that is what he’s always tried to do but I couldn’t see how Adiye… fits the bill. The rest of the songs were fine. Magudi… is used both times to compress a long timeline into a single song. The first time with Thomas’ growing up, and the second with his growth as a gangster. As Aparna has already pointed out, I also didn’t think of this song much when I heard the album, but it was very effective on-screen. I also felt Chithira Nila… was used overbearingly at times.

    I actually quite enjoyed the birthing scene. I don’t understand why you made the comparison, however minor it may be, to 3 Idiots where it’s played for melodrama mostly with a bit of comedy thrown in. Here it signals his transformation. He’s mostly used his hands and seen blood only for destruction, for killing. Here is this girl who’s making him use them for giving birth, for creating life. That, I think, is the moment that signals his transformation being complete. His story takes a completely different arc after that point. I think he finds God in this scene as the background music hints at. (It was actually a slower version of Anbin Vaasalile….)

    That is why I was completely disappointed with the climax. Mani had chosen to dissociate himself from the mainstream for the better part of the film before returning with a cliched and predictable climax. The fight sequence set in a storm. Thomas saving Bergmans. Bergmans not having the heart to finish off his daughter which was pretty obvious after the sudden cut-away earlier. And the even more cliched hospital scene (I was left wondering how Beatrice came into this place first of all) where Thomas “cures” Beatrice. That entire sequence did not work for me.

    I didn’t rate Gautham as highly as some of you did. He did his job admirably but I was taken out-of-the-moment in scenes where he was expected to be emotional. I actually thought of Thulasi much higher. She was effective in most of the scenes, even the heavy emotional ones that have her breaking down. Arvind Swamy is always effective. But the scene-stealer was Arjun as the trailer had already shown us. This was a role that suited him to the letter T and he made the most of it. He even made lines like “Naan Saathaan Le…” work with the way he delivered them. A very riveting performance indeed.

    I am still going to watch it a second time to make better sense of it, especially the climax and see whether there are any saving graces in the way Mani has chosen to end things this time or whether my first impression was the right one.


  10. Ok, you liked this movie. But you don’t have to dig this deep in this shallow movie to give us this load of crap that you have given here.


  11. In terms of the songs, I do hear what you are saying. As I said previously, even the title track felt jarring, though the titles themselves were gorgeous. I thought it played much better the second time. That said, there are expectations when it comes to Mani’s films and well choreographed songs and cinematography is one of them. It is an expectation that Mani’s past successes and treatments have created and is a mould that he is struggling to get out of. So, to some extent, we can view it as cinematic compromise, possibly due to commercial considerations. For me, it didn’t bother me as much especially since it was shot in the same milieu and not like set pieces (say in Shankar’s films). It will be interesting to see how much Mani can push the boundaries in future films if he truly wants to break the mould.

    That said,I felt the film to be very interesting. As you said, the things left unsaid contribute greatly to the film. There were times when I felt some aspects could have been explored and explained in greater detail but in retrospect, the charm and interest in the film was heightened by the the things unexplained. I get the Bhagyaraj school of screenplay but this one was infinitely more interesting. The CG work in the climax was pretty good as well. As I said, the BGM was adequate and in some places loud but on the whole musically, I didn’t have any complaints.

    For some reason, as I watched the film, I kept thinking of Unbreakable…some aspect of the good vs. evil concept. Of course, even if there is a love story intertwined here, it is still used as a tool to further the main concept. Given Mani’s past few films, this one was very rewarding and is worth multiple viewings to get all of it.


  12. Mr. Rangan – Does a Maniratnam movie deserve to be categorized as only “classifiable as good or bad” or “interesting”?
    And this “in-transition” phase if scary, the very thought of the path of transition is nightmarish ! This feeling of “being ditched” crossing over my head repeatedly… And I’ve been wondering if this is what you experienced when you saw ‘Roja’ and felt betrayed! Honestly, ‘Kadal’ had ‘The Maniratnam touch’ only scattered, here and there.
    What do you think of this path of his? I ask this question as someone whose life’s pre-dominant moments are defined by Maniratnam’s films.


  13. Kadal: Two thumbs down for Mani for confusing Rajeev Menon and Rehman,it looked as if he was filming an index sheet of all frames he used till date.
    If you have no clue about coastal fishing community celebrating Christianity don’t watch the movie.Blame Indian seas for dragging Ratnam in Infinite thinking.
    Bottom line :continue being his loyalist & wait for his next.


  14. Dear BR, a bit kind methinks :)
    I had the same mixed feelings about the movie as I had about the trailer – starts out great and degenerates into a seemingly lazy hack job…
    Terrific 1st half – really intense – 2nd half – so choppy it looked sadly amateurish (no spoon-feeding notwithstanding) .
    don’t think I woulda minded a 3 hour final cut. also coupla scenes from the trailer were missing I thought?
    As weird as the dance bits were the lyrics stuck out even more sorely…especially after we find out about Bea…do you feel that has no bearing and can be excused as a standalone piece and not meant to be relevant to the tale?
    In the end I walked out thinking this wasnt what Mani had set out to do originally but had sailed well beyond the point of return…hmm! how much should one attribute to Jayamohan?Sure hope we get some answers in your book’s future edition :)


  15. Rajiv menon has mented magic with the camera, mindblowing and pleasant visuals which compels to ask once more. So many different shades of the sea, really proud to have him in our country.
    AR Rahman, this man is the Legend of Legends, the Background score is just Out of the World, classy and emotionally enriched. The BGM provides tremendous
    impact and makes you melt into the emotions, its Excellent. The BGM collection will be a treasure for every music lover.
    Songs are already chartbusters, one of the reasons for the hype of the movie. The picturisation of the songs are a visual treat. Chithirai Nila beautifully
    weaves the emotions of the child with his mother & later his father. ARR has made his music tell the story, VOW. Adiye was brilliantly choreographed, i enjoyed the
    dance movement for the lyrics “Kannaala kannaadi senju”, with Goutham and Thulasi pairing like ‘mirror reflection’… if u couldnt get it properly do notice that
    in the song, its Brilliant. Elay Keechan scenes in the sea, dance movements were enjoyable. Moongil Thottam was one brilliant picturisation, the shores of Andaman, the
    shades of sea were truly exceptional. Nenjukkulle was awesomely done with the dialogues weaving the exact emotions. Magudi in the title credits with the grey shades
    gives you the colour of the characters, Magudi repeats in the second half when Gautham Karthik transforms into baddie. Anbin Vasale in the end credits says Faith prevails at last, its beautifully imparted.
    The story is about God (Good), Satan (devil) and Faith. Its not a regular ‘good wins over bad’ story. Its about faith.
    The dialogues relate to the day to day life of Christians.. about baptism, confession, faith, etc
    Gautham, Arvind Swamy and Arjun were tremendous, Thulsi did a great job with her character. No one lets you down.
    The kids were awesome, what a feel in their eyes ! Mani ratnam is an expert, we know.
    The scene where the boy (hero’s childhood) speaks in the tape recorder, talks bad on Arvind swamy followed by his cry for mother is brilliant.
    When the kid’s mother is buried, Chithirai nilaa plays and the kid’s expressions makes your eyes wet.
    After the delivery of a baby, the expressions of gautham followed by again Chithirai nila BGM is simply superb.
    When Gautham lies in the boat along with his friend with blood in his palms, the dialogue goes “Konraal thaan raththam varumaa ? piranthaalum varum” (Blood doesnt always mean murder, it means Birth too) indicates the birth of Jesus, the birth of faith.. indicates Thulsi marked a change in his life towards faith, extra ordinary scene written by Mani Ratnam and Jeyamohan.
    When Arvind Swamy speaks with Thulsi, Gautham stands outside besides the statue of Jesus Christ and says “Sthothram” (Praise) with a smile, shows his complete transformation from sins.
    Same scene Arvind swamy plays the tape recorder to Thulsi.. Gautham and Thulsi’s performances are commendable.
    Arvind swamy is perfect in the role of Church Father, his expressions through eyes are superb, Mani ratnam’s touch !
    Arjun is brilliant in the negative character. His dialogue delivery, threatening eyes are tremendous.
    The stunts in the boat are beautifully choreographed, the roaring sea waves and the accompanying BGM make it marvelous.
    The dialogues are tremendous when Arjun is tied upside down with a rope, depicting the victory of sin over faith and then how Gautham helps restore the faith is awesome. The writing of this scene is no ordinary job.
    There are numerous scenes with a lot of depth. This is typical Mani ratnam touch, i shall rather say its more than his usual touch ! Do watch and enjoy the magic


  16. Saar, kindly permit me 2 cents. You ask: “Why is Sam, who comes from a moneyed background, renouncing everything to serve the Lord?” Simple. Because he (known then as Thomas, no coincidence that his ward in Kadal is called Thomas) lost the love of Kajol (Priya) to Prabhu Deva (Deva) in Minsara Kanavu, directed by Kadal’s cinematographer Rajiv Menon, and he joined the seminary.


  17. I haven’t yet seen the film but as always an astute piece that raises the right questions. But even though I haven’t seen the film I would like to address something you’ve said because it also applies to a larger set of the director’s works. This has to do with the ways in which Ratnam employs music videos.

    In the traditional sense commercial films offer obvious cues for these songs/videos to emerge. And Ratnam has certainly done a great deal of this. However the notion I’ve always resisted is the one that in that same traditional cinema the videos were somehow fluidly linked with the rest of the narrative. In my view the audience was trained to accept those cues as being ‘utterly’ natural. Of course there are those masala videos where the song is literally part of the narrative, the same happens in some older non-masala films as well. This is in a way the operatic principle. The song/video enhances the rest of the narrative or exists on the same plane with it. It is still an interruption in some sense but it is connected to the rest of the narrative. On the other hand this doesn’t happen with most movies. Except that once again the audience doesn’t recognize it as such. the ‘cues’ are delivered a certain way that come across as natural. It is analogous to the Hollywood continuity editing principle. It is not that this is somehow more ‘organic’ than say Godard’s cuts but that it creates the illusion of being so. from this perspective Ratnam is someone who problematizes all of this. Note how the more ‘Bollywood’ response to all of this is to try and do away with the videos altogether. In a sense this response secretly agrees with the point I’ve just made. It’s not that these filmmakers think they’re making more ‘Western’ narratives and hence can’t use songs in the same way. They also believe that the old ‘mix’ was itself a problem. Much like Bannerjee in his Caravan piece considers a lot of Bachchan’s comic interludes problematic within the texts of those films (here too I’d say yes these are in fact interruptions but the films depend on this.. as surely as Shakespeare is the ultimate master of such interruptions). Once again Ratnam makes explicit what is already implicit in those older films. Which is why I have forever resisted the idea that the quintessential Indian commercial film is like the Hollywood musical or alternatively like opera. It absolutely is not. Precisely because those other two models are not built on interruption. And this is not ‘apologizing’ for Ratnam because his non-musical narrative in the past 15 years or so (much as I dislike to posit such a split between the musical narrative and the non-musical one) also increasingly tends toward the elliptical (as you too have noted.. hence Raavan(an) is really an ‘essay’ on an entire tradition). Once again it is about refusing the obvious story-telling cues in a lot of instances. The two choices on Ratnam’s part emerge from the very same logic. So yes the videos might often seem dissociated but don’t Godard’s editing choices in his signature films follow the very same logic with respect to the traditional Hollywood formats? We are never ‘connected’ with his films in quite the same way, certainly not emotionally invested to the same degree, or if we now manage both these responses it’s because decades of cinema operating in Godard’s wake has better conditioned us. The initial audiences had a great deal of trouble with these works. Sometimes even the critics. This doesn’t mean my approach on Ratnam is definitive by any means but the criticism in this context often uses the traditional format, consciously or otherwise, as definitive in ways which I consider somewhat easy.


  18. this will be verbose. i’m sorry.

    I watched kadal yesterday, and i’ve been waiting for your review ever since. i know it’s unfair to accuse a reviewer of having let the side down, but that’s close to how i feel. because this was, in my opinion a deeply, deeply flawed movie, that didn’t know what it was doing or where it was going. and that’s down to a number of (for me) deeply disturbing things.

    1. the plot seems to be almost entirely derived from a 70s manmohan desai movie. the one that comes to mind immediately is amar akbar antony. or parvarish. i think you know what i mean.

    2. the girl can’t act to save anyone’s life. unless the idiot-child thing was intentional. nor even then, because then the intent must have been to make her endearing.

    3. the “drama” of the second half wasn’t any kind of drama at all. and honestly the drama of the first half didn’t surprise me at all either. honestly the only moment where the movie surprised me from a plot development point of view was when arjun turned out to be a green-goblinesque villain. in the first few scenes he seemed to be the one who would save the seemingly-near-autistic arvind swamy from the pits of pedantry.

    4. the larger metaphors that you’re talking about, and yes, the surprisingly overt religious overtones, are done in a very strange manneristic sort of way. if i think about it, yes, i’m impressed by the character arcs he’s given thomas and sam. less so chetty, bergmans, beatrice (appallling) and jerina. and given the patchy story, that’s even worse. that thomas should find his redemption and sam should find his actual life experience (from being the bookish preacher he started out as) stick out even without the development, but no other character has a motivation that isn’t out of a masala movie of the 70s (as i said before). it seemed as if the director had got the broad brush strokes right, but failed utterly to fill them up.

    5. the songs were awful to me because they seemed somehow condescending. it seems as if mani ratnam feels either a passion to educate the public about jazz and soul, or was trying to create songs just for the sake of having them. honestly that rehman, who’s pretty good at contextualising his musc, should have put up with that is a shock. \

    in all, it seems to me that a large number of the things you seem to like it seem to be relativistic, and that’s one of the things i don’t like about this review. you are looking at it as “growth” for mani ratnam. partly because i see it as the exact opposite–as a departure mani ratnam is making from his own brand of cinema towards the mainstream, where plot and casting decisions are taken not on merit but to suit the whims of the financier. overall, i was disappointed, somehwat as much as i was with raavan.


  19. Hi BR,

    I’m new to commenting here but always have read a lot on your this blog.

    I have some questions about the movie (songs) and am curious to know if you have answers. Or I want to know if you felt something similar about the same.

    Nenjukkulla.. the song, as we listen to the lyrics, does not sound like it was made for Thomas-Bea pair at all (Vanna maniyaaram.. Valadhu kai kadiyaaram.. Aana puliyellam adakkum adhikaaram)

    What about these words in Magudi? Naan onna nenappen.. Nee enna marappa – what’s shown is montage shots of Thomas’ mother from the past.. But some portions of the lyrics sound more like that of a lover’s words (Naan magudi da.. nee paambu)

    I’m just wondering if Mani Ratnam had really planned the songs just as we see them in the film or he had something else in mind.


  20. Every one looks at Good Vs Evil in the film… but there is a motive to name this movie as kadal.. he can even show good vs bad in any region (city), but y he has shown it in kadal (sea).. hero’s dad was shot by an evil in the hands of the hero.. but hero could not do anything.. he just kept his mouth shut … i totally enjoyed this movie.. sema sandwitch story depiction. this is tamil cinema at next level. did anyone had a look at the indian flag hoisted in the ship/boat in which the climax fight took place… who all thought the herione was ? .. y she has a pshycological problem after the incident in her childhood. this is not a stright forward plot… This film is a puzzle .. Mani has left to us to crack this 2.5 hr puzzle.


  21. Thanks Rangan! The part that interested me most in the film was the relationship or lack thereof between Thomas and Chetty/Setty. I was really looking forward to Chetty’s come uppance and was so disappointed by how that went down. While that is no fault of the screenplay, what did let me down was not being shown Arjun;s reaction to Thomas’ grief when Chetty is killed. In a lesser film, who cares, but here, it seemed so choppy to not see how Arjun would react. There were a couple of more scenes like that.

    The Sam/Bergmans track completely lost me – like zero impact. I’ve never not been engaged in a Mani film before :( I was BORED throughout the Sam/Bergmans tracks – both seemed under developed and obvious and hence completely uninteresting. You’re never surprised by what they do and you almost know every line they’re gonna utter before they do.

    The child actors were brilliant, but then this IS a Mani film. But why Mani why????


  22. I have a comment to make. Moreso, a disapproval to highlight. I watched Kadal the day after I watched Midnight’s Children and I’m struck by the way in which both movies had the affluent pole depicted as the righteous and the poorer one as the evil. I found it irresponsible on Rushdie’s part and disappointing on Ratnam’s part.

    I mean, seriously, it’s as though the wealthier one is in some way genuinely sweeter than the poorer one who is anyway bitter at the inequality thrown in his face. So much for the just God and optimism.

    P.S: why doesn’t anyone comment on the visuals of ‘Adiye’? What was with the costumes and choreography for such a lovely bluesy song?


  23. “But really, Mani Ratnam and God. Who would’ve thought?”…

    Baradwaj, spare a thought for the writer behind the film ! This is the first time Maniratnam is collaborating with a world-class writer of literature. This was Jeyamohan’s world, in the physical and literal sense.


  24. Oh dear! Could you be more sychophantic? There was an article in last year’s G2 bemoaning the end of Woody Allen as we knew him. This was based on the fact his most recent movies sucked big time. Your review (can it be called that?) recalled that article to mind for precisely the opposite reason. Would you have given this movie such a glowing report if it hadn’t been made by Mani? If it had been called say, ‘A Cheran film’ (whatever happened to the proper way of calling it ‘A Film By…’?).


  25. The biggest drawback of Kadal is that Mani Ratnam was never able to get me hooked into his tale. Drawing parallels with mythology and archetypes would increase curiosity only if I was engaged to the script in the first place. I think that is where Kadal was a epic let down. i was appalled by the visuals of “Adiye”


  26. I like to believe I don’t need spoon feeding and the dotting of i-s or crossing of t-s, but I found Thomas’s transitions too abrupt and not seeded nearly well enough. In many ways it felt to me like Mani Ratnam’s least complex movie in recent times and yet Brangan you took away exactly the opposite – that intrigues me.

    The archetypes of good and evil are so straightforward – at least Father Sam has some hidden depths, Bergmans is just outright evil. Poor Thulasi has a thankless uni-dimensional role of an angel in white. Just in case we don’t get it, we’re hammered over the head with her emotional trauma. Because only children who are emotionally stunted are pure and capable of unmitigated love for all of mankind. The end is as predictable as the twist when Bergmans returns. Maybe there’s more to the biblical references that I’m not getting, but this seemed like a remarkably straightforward telling of the good vs evil story. At least in Raavanan, those constructs were subverted and we were forced to examine their premise. Here, I enjoyed Rajiv Menon’s camerawork that seemed like the real hero of the film, the splendidly filmed songs, and the very welcome return of Arvind Swamy. It was a visual feast – not unusual for Mani Ratnam’s films, but it didn’t move me emotionally or challenge my assumptions — which is unusual in terms of how I see his films.


  27. I am not so sure Ratnam has moved any bit away from his nallavana kettavana business. If anything Raavan and Kadal has pushed the envelope a bit further by really questioning the notion of nallavan and kettavan. In Kadal, the battle is less between god and devil, but more between the “path of God” and the “path of Devil”. If anything, the point seems to be that circumstances bring out the God and Devil inside any of us. Even a man who has chosen to follow the Devil has a light inside him, and even a man who has chosen to follow the path of God can be driven to commit a devlish crime. The notion of paths and a choice between them is repeated explicitly and implicitly throughout the movie. While explicit references to Jesus and God in the movie were merely due to the religiousness of the characters in the story, the movie was similar to Raavan and Thalapathy in the sense of humanizing deities in epics, the Bible in this case. Gautam’s uncanny resemblance to Jesus, his illegitimate (immaculate) birth to Mary, Aravind Swamy betrayed by a follower, beaten up( crucified) by the villagers, resurrected in the 4th year (4th day). So Mani Ratnam’s atheism does not make this movie any more surprising than his other humanized epics. In fact, the actual paths of God and Devil were merely portrayed as the paths of Forgiveness and Revenge respectively, with no explicit references to the tenets of a religion. Christianity , in this case, seems to have been chosen because the story of Jesus is one of Forgiveness.
    It is all meant to come together in the final showdown (which I agree could have packed a stronger emotional punch through the dialogues) where we are asked to question our ability to forgive Arjun, when the priest who preached forgiveness throughout the story was ready to kill him, and it was “God’s son” who finally did forgive and save him. This question at the end begs us to reflect back (explicitly) to the scene where, through the childlike heart of Bea, we did absolve Thomas.

    I also did not find Arjun’s repeated self reference as Satan bothersome; if anything his constant explicit referral was an indication that he was unsure of his path and he needed to explicitly remind himself that he was Satan.


  28. Wow! I am wondering if we saw the same movie! Because the Kadal I watched stank to the high heavens. It was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Lets start with the characters – they were so uni – dimensional that you simply could not identify with them as it is usually difficult to identify with cardboard cut – outs. Aravind Swamy’s Sam was marginally better developed than the others but even this character was baffling as his behavior was so inconsistent. He is not above slapping a kid around but at other times he is meek and passive to a fault and then in the climax we finally get a rise out of him and we are given glimpses of a murderous rage that somehow falls short of convincing. Arjun as the dude obsessed with Saatan is just plain ridiculous. As for Thomas and Bea, they have redefined awful.

    As for the script, I felt the writers should have waited until they were sober to write this out of consideration for their suffering audience. Kadal is nothing but a superficial and pretentious piece of drivel which hardly merits a review so enough said.

    Mr Rangan, I am a huge fan of your writing (in fact, I am practically a groupie) and have long waited for you to write a book. But when you did and I found out it was on Mani, I could not have been more disappointed. Because I simply do not see Mani as a genius or a subject worthy of a brilliant writer. Sure he made fantastic films like Anjali, Bombay, Roja but he has been churning out sub – standard fare for a long time now. In fact Alaipayudhe was the last decent film he made. His ‘legacy’ as you called it is tarnished beyond redemption thanks to the rubbish films he has made for the past 12 years. And instead of wasting his time with films like Kadal, perhaps he should do everybody a favor and write a book called “Conversations with Baradwaj Rangan”. Because you are the genius, not him. (And trust me after the review you gave for Kadal, I am really going out on a limb to say that)


  29. Thank you! I knew this one was going to be great. I’ll put my faith in Mani Ratnam’s depths over the ‘crowd’ reviewers any day. Can’t wait to see it. With respect to you from New Zealand!


  30. This is my explanation for Magudi, and I think I’m right.
    The use of Magudi when Gautam turns ‘evil’ is just perfect. The most brilliant part of the song and the usage in the film is the ‘devil’ telling him in her seductive voice that once he has embraced ‘her’, he’ll not be able to redeem himself and he’ll dance as per her tunes (naan magudi daa, nee paambu).


  31. Thomas struggles to stay erect on the boat as the water tries to push him down, and when he finally does so, a huge splash of water on his face and then the grown up Thomas is shown (played by Gautham), to the beginning tunes of A R Rahman’s ‘Elay Keechaan’. This scene brought goosebumps in me (what I like to call ‘Inspirational Goosebumps’ because I get them every time I see a scene that inspires me. I get it when Lightning McQueen maneuvers skilfully, a trick that he learns from his mentor Doc Hudson, when he is pushed outside the track by Chick in the final race in ‘Cars’).
    Unfortunately, that inspirational goosebumps were soon gone as Thomas danced to the tunes of the song. It made me uncomfortable. In my opinion, that dance was not required. If it were me, I’d have made action stills of the young Thomas enjoying his new profession and as the song progresses, his transformation with age into the grown up Thomas (but that is me).

    And as my friend once told me, witnessing a childbirth is one of the most magical things. You won’t be able to express what feeling that you have. But there will be a burst of many feelings. “For me (my friend), I was mysteriously happy or…”
    And having committed such crimes, when he finally gets to witness a childbirth, Thomas might have learnt the true value of life. I think that is what Mani Sir tried to do with that scene. At least, that is what I felt.
    And the scene where his father (Ponnvannan) gets shot by Bergmans, and lies in the arms of Thomas. I could somehow see the thoughts of Thomas in my mind, of how he thinks “Oh! What have I done with my life? What have I gotten myself into? What have I turned into?” as he looks at the dead face of his father and slowly embraces him. That is my version.

    As for the film, it was a good watch. I being a Mani Ratnam fan, have to say that it was a good effort by the film-maker. The camera and the music were excellent.


  32. Also, Nenjukkulle was made for Lakshmi Manchu – Arjun. Lakshmi even tweeted about shooting for this song (https://twitter.com/LakshmiManchu/status/270745822809968641). Also, one of my friends pointed out that Arjun wears his watch on the right hand – “valadhu kai gadigaaram” (lyrics from Nenjukkulle). Also, “aanai puli ellaam adakkum adhigaaram” fits only with Arjun. I can’t imagine Beatrice being proud of Thomas being a powerful man who controls the town.

    However, for some reason the song has been removed. Since the song became so famous, they didnt want to chop it off totally, so the song is now played in the background for Gautham-Thulasi.


  33. brangan fanboys will now praise this turd and justify it because of this review where you find hidden meaning where there isn’t any.. ha ha. didn’t ratnam himself say as much in the book?


  34. How did you come up with this in a day. Or two even. Idhellam apde vardhudhan la?

    Only one question. Why are people judging the film for what it is not, rather than for what it is? Seems to happen with Mani only. It has problems, the spelling out references to begin with, but it still had a lot going for it.

    For the first time, train scene illayan! Idhellam oru matteraya.


  35. Rangan, have grown up seeing mani’s movies. Have been spellbound by his movies. But this movie is not. It is really a low point in his career


  36. In the magudi song ,there is a female portion sung by Chinmayi.I did not understand the context of the female portion.I mean is it the mother of Thomas singing or what is it ?


  37. Could Lakshmi Manchu have been Mary Magdalene and Aravind Swamy be Lord Jesus? Certain people have accused of Jesus having a sexual affair with Magdalene which Christians vehemently deny. In this movie, they show Father Sam being dragged to the jail(similar to crucifying). Father Sam later rises(comes from Jail) and shows the path to god. In the movie, they also falsely accuse Father Sam to have had a sexual affair.


  38. As a die-hard Mani Ratnam fan, the overwhelming feeling on walking out of the cinema on Friday was one of huge disappointment. You say that this is Ratnam working on how to shape his legacy in new directions, how to experiment with mainstream cinema and try something different.. Iruvar was very different from Mouna Raagam, Anjali and Aayutha Ezhuthu were vastly different and so on but there is a common thread linking all these and his other movies that I felt was missing in Kadal, except in glimpses – the intensity that grips you to every scene, the crisp dialogue, the delicious irreverence..

    I was taken aback by all the religion in the movie – as you say “But really, Mani Ratnam and God. Who would’ve thought?” .. but I realize that it might have been his attempt on taking a archetypal Christian story (and a story written by someone else) and bringing it on screen, though his personal beliefs are different. But still… Regarding the lack of nallavaraa-kettavaraa in the movie, I realize that Thomas was the ‘grey’, the grey that resulted from being continuously tossed between the two poles of White and Black (Sam and Bergmans), very different to the more complicated grey of a Velu Nayakan, say.. But still, but still…

    Silly as this might sound, I say this as a huge fan confused by what to make of Raavanan and Kadal: I want my Mani back!


  39. @Baradwaj: Better actors might have saved this damp squib of a movie, maybe. Mani pretty much lost me at about the 15 minute mark when Arjun tries to strangle Arvind. I remember thinking at the time “WTF ? Where did that come from ?”. Having thought about it though, I think it would still have worked if the actor had been a more dynamic sort. Arjun just doesn’t express the anger/fear/desperation that a person in that situation might have felt.( or was supposed to) .
    Others have already spoken about the incongruity of the costumes/dance for “Adiye” which is the second time that a favorite Rahman track has been mangled (Aaromale comes to mind).
    Rahman’s background music sucked big time. Most of it seemed to be rejects from the Ayudha Ezhuthhu soundtrack. The second half felt (other than the nonsensical last 30 minutes) badly put together. (Perhaps a lot was chopped off at the editing table ?) I guess the saddest part of the movie was Arvind’s one-d character. I’m really not sure if this is progress, from the point of view of Mani’s career. As a matter of fact, it felt like he was going back to pure masala rather than many flavored films that he had got down to making in the last two decades.


  40. Bang on, BR! ‘Saw Kadal twice over the week-end. 1st time went all over the head. The deep-South slang didn’t aid my comprehension ability. 2nd time was with English sub-titles (I live in Bombay). And, I was simply mesmerized. ‘Sooo intelligent and multi-layered. ‘Saw all the hidden meanings that you’ve mentioned. Also, I think all the characters (except Thomas) are characters to just some extent. Beyond that, they are just his inner-voices. All of them – at some stage stop being true to the realms of how they would behave and become his God’s, Devil’s and Angel’s voices. Cyclone Nilam was the turbulence inside him. Well, this is a part of my interpretation. ‘Shall try to see it again over this week.


  41. “neenga nallavara kettavara”ngra question maari poyi, “neenga biaseda unbiaseda” (when it comes to reviewing Mani’s films)nu aagi pochchu :-)


  42. For all the positive things you have said in your review, the film just did not work for me at all. Especially the second half was boring to death.


  43. Sorry, disjointed bits of violence, (literally) black and white characterizations, a disconnected story line, hamming by Thulasi Nair, made me sleep through quite a bit of the movie :( was looking for bits of non existent brilliance whenever I woke up! Aravind Swamy was the highlight of the movie..


  44. Having seen the movie, reading your review and the comments. I conclude the audiences’ main grouse is ‘Kadal’ is not vintage Mani Ratnam at all.. they have been exposed to so many similar looking ‘village based – rowdy hero movies’ with a ‘message’ and hoped a Maniratnam movie will be a refreshing change with trademark clever lines, spontaneous natural heroes, independent heroines, refreshing romance, great music videos… So that way Kadal fails with the ‘audience’, because he disappointed the fans expecting a smart movie that makes them feel smarter when they get out of the multiplexes .. however the movie doesnt disappoint the critic (like yourself) or keen followers of work of Mani Ratnam, because they are seeing another new dimension of his creativity. Therein lies the mismatch. And like the movie itself, most of us see movies as Good or Bad and requires a certain maturity to call a movie interesting! And given this context its easier for them to call Kadal bad rather than good! So it will be dubbed a flop movie, while film schools dissect it and find newer meanings everyday :-) !


  45. Ha, Ha! BR, I pity your position. You give a positive review and people blame you of partiality because of Conversations with Mani Ratnam. If you had given a negative review, I’m sure people would have accused you of overzealous attempt at showing impartiality inspite of Conversations with Mani Ratnam.


  46. couldn’t agree with you more… the film needs some time to digest..if you overlook the details then the film doesn’t make sense as what people have been syaing in almost all reviews! I really enjoyed it!


  47. DID you guys understand what was “mesakaran” all about? when arjun talks about his mentor whom he killed he says ” avarum free mesakaran” is the reference to “Free masons” who are a cult group in secrecy, who sell their soul to the devil for earthly success???????


  48. The problem I find with general audiences of Indian Cinema is that either they want something that a film maker did ages ago which is deeply etched in their minds, or they are not ready to accept something that’s a bit off the beaten track. Observing comments on social network and responses to your post, its pretty clear that every one wants an Anjali, Roja or a Bombay and not something that’s beyond all this. If the film maker did indeed make another Anjali, Roja or Bombay (not literally ) everyone would gang up again saying why is Mani making the same porridge from the early 90s. Kadal for me really worked at least for the most part, it was a new Mani that I witnessed, maybe even a more matured one with a more different outlook than he had in his previous films. Hey Mani evolves as well!I saw the classier Mani who gave us Iruvar or Guru and made Kadal in a new arena that he has never tackled before. Kadal will work just give people some time to digest and I am sure in an years time or so people will start understanding the intelligence that’s portrayed in Kadal. Having said that I wasn’t liking the placements of songs especially Adiye, like where did it come from? And I wasn’t really a fan of the climax scene on the boat either, felt too commercial for my liking. Great review, but judging from the general consensus Kadal might not be ringing the box offices atleast not immediately.


  49. Its’ all good to keep in mind, Ratnams’ credentials and deconstruct his psyche w.r.t screenplay; as a work of art, this movie is only as good or bad as the substance and storytelling.
    It did’nt need any brilliance to figure out what’s going on. The movie was really as plain as the seasons playing out around the year. Only as tedious and long.
    Given the lack of any real depth in emotion, one trying to find solace in interpreting the sequences in a high minded fashion(the intellectual), seems to be the obvious track to take.

    Ratnam knows how to evoke an emotion. Knowing that he knows, he is probably bored of doing that again and again. He is trying to take on something higher.
    But I am not convinced that he is anywhere close to what he set out to do.


  50. Wow, what a review and what amazing comments from contributors BTL. I am sure this this blog is better than the movie. I haven’t seen the movie but from what I read Mani Ratnam wants to tackle a serious subject but is scared of leaving the commercial format. Why is he afraid of dropping the music videos? Why can’t he make a completely serious film outside of the commercial format ? One more problem is the way he promotes his films, watching Raavan’s trailers, I thought that it was going to be a thriller. Kadal’s trailer is also misleading.


  51. Thanks, Baradwaj .. very interesting take on the film indeed.. but have to admit that much like the film, your review too, did not “live up to the expectations”… Being an ardent fan of Maniratnam’s work till date, I could not believe I was watching his film during the climax .. what was it? An experiment with graphic fireworks and over the top miming by Arvind Swamy that would probably even make a Ramanand Sagar embarassed? I was surprised such a climax did not find due “recognition” in your review.. Also, have we ever seen such over the top/misplaced expressions from lead actors in his films before? What was that expression on Arvind’s face when Laksmi Manchu was being interrogated at the church? Or while he was almost “jaw dropping” to mime to Anbin vasalae? I’m not even mentioning the three-some (Arjun-Arvind-G Karthik) hamming during the wrestling-like fighting sequence just before “the end” (literally!).. What on earth forces Mani ratnam to a) take these far-from-perfect, mediocre-at-best actors or b) allow such scenes to exist on the editing table?? This was also the first time the song picturisation looked agonizingly similar to his past work..He seemed stuck with Satrangi re / Kadhal sadugudu / pachai nirame mode.. Nothing on earth can justify such a waste of brilliant songs.. Having said that, Mr. Rahman’s background score also sounded strikingly similar to his work for Ravaan .. the female humming notes in particular.. Oh yes.. you missed another point, no trains in this movie ! May be he did not want to “repeat” at least one thing from his past work ..

    PS: The above note in no way ignores the sparks of Mani’s brilliance evident in the first few scenes..with the child and his mom.. the broken leg metaphor.. the agony of the teen ager hero.. the daily routine of the fishermen village..and many such.. all mostly in the first 80-90 minutes of the film.. but that’s the Mani we know, we love.. and we continue to respect for.. I strongly hope his next one will be free from those Disney graphics and over the top expressions, at least.. he should continue to “experiment”, and “surprise” us..but not through such hamming of actors,.. but through his genius and brilliance, which he has in abundance.. Looking forward to the next one.. till that time.. will continue to play Kadal’s first half in loop.. still a million times better than many of the contemporary run-of-the-mill movies being made..

    Thank you.


  52. A brilliant movie with each character doing their bit extremely well and very gripping in the first half but I guess the climax was a bit too longggg…….excellent music, excellent cinematography and lovely songs but all of them not so well plugged and somewhere there is a disconnect. You love the movie even more when you watch it the second time.


  53. Kadull: Yup, that’s exactly how I function. And my positive reviews of “Saawariya” and “Not a Love Story” and “Aayirathil Oruvan” and “Neethane En Ponvasantham” and “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” were because of my collaborations with those filmmakers.

    Sairaj: A model of how a comment that agrees to disagree. Thanks.

    5RK: You’re making me sound like a freak now :-) How many times do cricket commentators, for instance, see a strike before making connections to other players or describing it in depth?

    Aparna: I agree. “Kannathil Muthamittal” was a more directly accessible film, and one that I think is his best all-round film post-“Iruvar.” But I do think he’s a very different filmmaker now, and that’s “interesting” too.

    Dharu: Actually, given the Devil/Angel roles being played, it’s understandable that Bergmans is unable to kill Bea. Just the way it was shown was odd for me. And yeah, the Devil needed a much stronger finish.

    MKH: “In my opinion, Father Bergmans was not evicted. He decided to evict himself by refusing to repent for his sins.” – That’s pretty clear, no? He says he won’t opt for paavamannippu, and so they evict him.

    Shankar: I kept hearing it as Jerina. Maybe it’s the dialect? Also, how was Arjun’s name spelt in the subtitles? I heard it as Bergmans…

    naveen0717: Actually, the only phase of Mani Ratnam that I did not connect to was the “Roja”/”Bombay” era. In these new films, I feel he’s handling conflicts in a much better way, in a way that doesn’t go out of its way to be crowd-pleasing. Also, why should the “Mani Ratnam touch” be the same over time? Maybe he feels he doesn’t want to go there anymore. Maybe after ten years, some of the things from these films will what we’ll term as the “Mani Ratnam touch”.


  54. Arun: Thanks for at least acknowledging the fact that a film can be reviewed in terms of a director’s career and not just in terms of Good or Bad.

    Vinod: And if had been in between, it would have been “I’m unwilling to take a stand.” :-)

    Raj Balakrishnan: “Kadal’s trailer is also misleading.” More than the trailer, I guess all that stuff about Karthik’s son and Radha’s daughter made people expect a coastal love story, whereas this is really the story of the two older men, with the “hero” being a pawn, and the “heroine” being an agent of deliverance. Hardly a love story.


  55. Kadull: “didn’t ratnam himself say as much in the book?” No, actually, he didn’t say so in the book. His real response to this lies in the “Kannathil” chapter, but I guess you stuck to the what was explicitly said in the earlier chapters.

    Gradwolf: “Seems to happen with Mani only.” Just this morning a friend (who saw the movie last night) said that Mani bashing seems to have become the fashion.

    jithin: yeah, i too didn’t get the “spoken” portions of Magudi. Future “Conversations” fodder, i guess, if that ever happens :-)

    Karthik Mohan: I thought — if we’re doing Biblical parallels — Arvind is God, Arjun is Satan, and Thomas is Jesus (who is tempted by Satan after his forty-days fast). But I don’t know that there’s an exact one-to-one mapping in the movie along those lines.

    Bala: “when Arjun tries to strangle Arvind. I remember thinking at the time… Where did that come from” – in this particular case, he knows Arvind will go squeal on him and he has a large family depending on his income, so a bit of murderous rage is justified, no?

    Vinod: Strangely, the accent/slang wasn’t much of a problem for me. I actually found the dialogues of “Neerparavai” (set in the same area) a bit tougher to get, words like “paadhaala karandi” :-)

    “Also, I think all the characters (except Thomas) are characters to just some extent.” Actually, I saw them as mostly archetypes, which is why I guess some people have called them one-dimensional. But even there, we find Arjun doing “good” things like his promise to Jerina, and Arvind Swamy acknowledging that he probably did a “bad” thing when he tells Mary why he’s tending to a bullet-wounded Arjun. (“Oru pazhaya kadan baakki irukku.”)


  56. BRangan,
    After seeing “vishwaroopam” 3 times in two weeks, went to see “kadal” on Sunday eve.
    (David was running in the next screen – with only 2 guys! Disaster!!!) I thoroughly enjoyed the film – can’t say that I loved the film as yet, because it was hard to understand the dialect in one viewing! Yeah, I am a little slow! But happy to see that Mani did not go the Ravan route, which was horrible in my view!
    My only gripe was that “nenjukkulle” could have been visualized better!
    Good that you saw the film already, as I hear that some Christian fringe group wants to ban this film now!!!!


  57. apala: When I said this is like “Raavan(an),” I meant it in a kind of filmmaking sense, just as I feel that the seeds for the style of these two films were sown in the first half of “Dil Se.”

    Balaji Sivaraman: “I wasn’t caught up in my own expectations of a Mani film like I was with Raavanan. I just saw the film for what it was, a unique work of vision.” And that’s how films should be seen, whether you like them or dislike them ultimately.

    With “Adiye,” my problem was not just the foreign-ness of the song in the context of the surroundings, but even the extras and everything else. It was like something that landed from a different movie.

    Arun: “don’t think I woulda minded a 3 hour final cut.” I’m with you there.

    Satyam: I get what you say in a “logical” sense. As in, why must a music video be “consistent” with the milieu around it, and why can it not break away in an expressionistic fashion? I agree in theory. But while watching this, it feels odd, and it’s not the operatic principle, where the song doesn’t violate the story’s physical (and also emotional) trajectory. Here, the emotional plane is fine, but “physically” there seems to be a violation. The interruption is not the problem. The sense of discontinuity is. And I say this as someone who doesn’t “switch off” during songs, and find them among the most interesting things in any film.

    vijay k: “a large number of the things you seem to like it seem to be relativistic” — I agree, but isn’t that true of every review of mine?


  58. Sid: See AM Aravind’s comment. Probably have to see the film again for some of this stuff.

    AM Aravind: “Nenjukkulle was made for Lakshmi Manchu” — that’s really interesting, thanks.

    “Also, one of my friends pointed out that Arjun wears his watch on the right hand — “valadhu kai gadigaaram” — I think I want to meet this friend :-)

    Anuja: I guess we just don’t see Mani Ratnam the same way. I’d hardly call “Kannathil” and (most of) “Yuva” or “Raavan(an)” as “rubbish films.” But thanks for the kind words even amidst your rage.

    ammani: I do like Cheran’s films.

    Maru: Those transitions are seeded in the songs. And I’m calling this a “complex” movie in terms of characterisation — they are archetypes after all. I’m saying that the “narration” isn’t straightforward, like in a typical commercial film.

    “Because only children who are emotionally stunted are pure and capable of unmitigated love for all of mankind.” I thought of the trauma as simply a device that kept her in that childlike state. Yes, children = innocence is a bit of a cliche, but given her function in the film, I didn’t have a problem with how she was conceived.

    Karthik: Excellent comment, thanks.


  59. Ayyo, ayyo. மேஜை / மேசை = Table. Mesakkaaran is a high society / rich Christian who eats in a dining table. Mesakkaran is the powerful person in the community. A common usage in Tuticorin and neighboring fishing communities. Free mason level thinking – முடியல.


  60. Leaving a comment for the first time. Was dying to watch the movie on the first day itself and my husband gave a beautiful birthday surprise by booking for a night show. Loved the movie but felt a little dissatisfied with the climax. All those unanswered questions already raised by you or others. Loved your review though. No mention of the writer Jeyamohan??
    Was the fighting sequence shot during Nilam? I thought the opening shot of the sea is the one..


  61. Rangan,

    Not seen the movie yet. But I have a question for you. Recalling your review of “Vazhakku En..”, your chief gripe was that the characters where quite uni-dimenstional and lacked the grey elements, but here you seem to embrace the same(atleast that’s what I think form my reading so far). Just curious if there are differences according to you in the two movies.
    I saw Vazhakku En.. after I read your review and the huge backlash of comments. When I did see the film, I didn’t feel the way you did. I thought the archetypes were there for a reason and they did not bother me at all. They were very essential to pull the story together, IMO.


  62. @Baradwaj: Yup. I meant that Arjun’s acting, even when in rage, was pretty low-key. So much so that I thought he was not particularly serious with Arvind initially while attempting to strangle him. (which is why I said better actors might have, IMHO, saved the movie. No ? ;) )


  63. Rangan, sorry to repeat Mani Ratnam’s advice. “Don’t intellectualise”. I was surprised you were confounded when Sam, coming across Thomas for the first time after his incarceration, tells: “Nee vera paadhayile romba dhooram poyitte-nu kelvi patten.” Nothing could have been more spoon-fed. The ‘magudi’ song is played out before this. And we also see Bergmans informing Sam with devilish glee of Thomas’s gun-toting ways when he visits him in jail. It beats me why you saw just a “sweetly aimless youth, pottering about the village and Beatrice” and had to do so much of catching up.

    Then you asked: “Would Kadal have been an easier film to embrace – directly, with the heart, rather than it all coming together in the head – had Ratnam given us a scene that explained why Thomas decided to become good again.” Wasn’t the birth scene, where Thomas helps Beatrice in a delivery, and the subsequent scene in the boat where he looks wondrously at the blood stains, as if he just cannot believe that birth blood can also give him a terrific kick, on his hands enough?


  64. is maniratnam doing a dark knight where arjun is the joker turning everyone evil and arvindsamy the good batman


  65. If you are expecting just a pure entertainer, ‘Kadal’ is not for you. If you are someone who can appreciate a strong concept, characterization, good cinematography, exceptional performances, the interesting and intense ‘Kadal’ is definitely for you.

    As the movie progresses, Mani Ratnam seems to be reinforcing the point that it’s not for those expecting just another movie similar to his older ones. This is different, yet again. He has made movies on different subjects in the past, but certain things remain constant in all his creations – a strong underlying concept that weaves the story & excellent characterization, among others.

    I am going to watch it again to observe and enjoy the subtleties and nuances that I might have missed the first time around.


  66. I do like this Mani Ver.2.0…sure he still is on the journey, but he is willing to explore. The commercial aspects, some songs especially have been irritants in past films as well (Pani vizhum, September madham etc)…jarring in the context of the flow of the film. But to some extent, he is also a victim of expectations that have been set by his past films. He has to decide (and the producers, of course), when he wants to break free from that…if he wants to, that’s it. Even Spielberg was mired in this conundrum for a while…having to make big entertainers. The one thing you can be assured in a Mani film is that there will be aspects of it that you can enjoy, even if you didn’t like the film as a whole.

    And he is willing to change…there were no ” Poyitte….nee rombha dhooram poyitte” dialogs!! :-)


  67. “”But the Ratnam of today isn’t going to spoon-feed us, and this is what makes his recent films so rewarding in a mainstream context. …
    And then we recall the Magudi song sequence, into which all his sinning is compressed. So Ratnam, really, is asking us to hold on to the information from that song, which goes by in a blur, instead of presenting this information over a course of time over the screenplay, so that we are eased into Thomas’s new life.””

    Seriously?! So when she absolves, we had to *recall* magudi?

    And Mani does not spoon-feed? Howlarious saar.
    1. Newborn blood in his hands. Contrast it with what he has been doing. Scene ends there, but he takes a spoonful and shoves it in our month with the next scene.
    2. Arjun – evil, again spoonfuls up our *** every single time he appears.
    3. Beatrice, angel. Explained ad nauseum.

    Not-trusting the audience, catering to the LCD have been Mani’s biggest problems off late.


  68. Hello sir i am avid reader of your blog for quite some time and i enjoy your write ups a lot :)
    I am quite confused reg certain portions of what you wrote about kadal..
    if Sam meeting Bergmans again later on was an accident (cosmic) how does it make sense when u say that Lakshmi Manchu is crying for what she is about to do???Was it preplanned b/w Arjun and Manchu soley on the faith in the cosmos that Sam and Bergman’s will meet later on?


  69. BR: ‘Interesting’ review as usual. I read so many crap reviews of Kadal that I jotted down my thoughts. Was good to compare them with yours. I was relieved to note that you and many others in this blog found some songs to be tedious and unwanted. For a few days, I was thinking this was old age catching up. (or maybe all the groupies in this blog are from the same age cohort?)

    I agree with Karthik that the movie is about the path of God vs path of Devil. Of course I missed some of the religious parallels your commenters have brought out. Would be interesting to know how much of these allegories were Jeyamohan’s ideas and how many were Mani’s.

    I didn’t find any ‘continuity’ issues with Thomas going rogue. The Magudi song took care of that and it was good that Mani didn’t waste footage showing all the evil acts in conventional form. The childbirth scene couldn’t have been more spoon fed, it is here that Bea reawakens the good inside Thomas.

    I also found it interesting that both Thomas and Bea suffered life altering experiences in childhood. Although they react differently, it is this shared experience that brings them together (?!)

    My big gripe with the film (and I have had this with Mani for some of his earlier films) is that he has done a poor job with dialogues. Even scenes that needed more of verbal treatment are cut away abruptly, like initial fight between Bergmans and Sam or the first meeting between Thomas and Bergmans. Even in the climax scene, the dialogues were a bit uneven. Mani may hate the verbiage of older tamil movies but there is a reason drama depends on dialogues. Also doesn’t spiritualism (or theology for that matter) lend itself to lot of arguments and debates? For a collaboration between a noted novelist and director I wished the lines packed more of a punch.

    No mention of Jeyamohan? I guess you haven’t read him.

    (I am half hoping that with all this mining of the movie for undertones, somebody will find a link between Bergmans and Ingmar Bergman:-)


  70. I had the same doubts…I heard Lakshmi Manchu in one of her interviews “boasting” of how the pan-national hit, Nenjukulle was picturized on her. So, I guess some commercial compromises has been done….In addition, while listening to the song, Magudi, I thought Chimaye has given the dubbing voice to the Tulasi character, and that is why her voice is used in the supposed “duet” song…


  71. My interpretation regarding why Arjun’s rage was low-key is, could be becoz, he just want to scare Arvind’s character and not want to kill him (which he eventually does). “Quantity” of rage could vary when one is hell bent on killing another, and when one just want to scare him….(as his mind will look for whether the victim is getting scared, thereby losing the intensity)


  72. BR, I can see why many commenters don’t agree with you. But I classify your review into the ‘interesting’ genre :-)

    I wrote down my thoughts after watching the movie and thinking about it. Because I was fed up with the reviews in mainstream media. It was good to compare notes with you. I m relieved that you and other commenters found some of the songs tedious and unwanted. For some time I felt that age was catching up with me and that’s why I am not able to appreciate them. Now it’s proven that either Mani is getting old or all the commenters in this blog are from the same age cohort.

    Both the Magudi song and child birth sequence worked for me. It is quite obvious what Mani was trying to do in these places. Particularly the allusion to blood during child birth.

    What put me off was that in many places which cried out for lengthier or punchier dialogue, Mani just cut away. There is a reason great drama depends on dialogues. I completely get it that Mani is still revolting against seventies style Tamil movie verbiage but when you are dealing with spiritualism (or theology) there should be space for some arguments. It is all the more mystifying that Mani’s collaboration with a novelist, Jeyamohan has not resulted in great lines.

    I think one of your commenters, Karthik got it spot on by saying that this movie is a fight between God’s path and the devil’s path. I didn’t understand all the religious allegories but it will be interesting to find out Mani’s contribution vis-a-vis Jeyamohan’s as far as the allusions go.

    I think Khalid Mohamed said in his review that Mani still matters. I think even when he slips, his effort is worth my time than the better efforts of other directors. A bit like the hurdler Ed Moses.


  73. Watched Kadal. I booked tickets for the film mainly after being mesmerized by Rahman’s songs (as far as Maniratnam’s is concerned, I have lowered my expectations after watching his previous work, Ravanan). Although, it is a good film, the main problem is its simple storyline, as it had nothing unique to offer. It starts off effectively. When the films moves to the childhood of Gautam karthik’s character, Maniratnam’s touches, particularly poignant touches, comes to the fore (especially the scene of the son sleeping on the body of his dead mother, breaking of her leg to accommodate into a coffin, etc). The performance of boys, who played young Gautam was superb. However, his transformation under the tutelage of Arvindsamy’s character was not well brought out. It seems to be rushed. The initials scenes of grown-up Gautam was lively, including the bike ride scene and briyani eating scene. On the same lines, the first interaction between the lead pairs was also quite interesting

    However, in the second half only, the film starts to meander, with the Gautam’s characterization becoming weak, as he starts to undergo changes quite quickly, without strong reasons. Although, the motivations and mindset of Arjun’s character is brought out throughout the movie, his actions towards the climax is not very convincing. Which is also the reason, why the climax, (which has been shot on par with international standards – the storm has been shot very well, so much we can’t differentiate between which are real and which are CG, and which are shot within a studio), doesn’t engage the viewers.

    Maniratnam’s touches was there throughout the film, especially Arjun always wearing black dresses in contrast to Arvindsamy’s white dress (especially in the Jail scene), and even the mannerisms of Arjun and Tulasi, especially the way they say “nice, nice, nice” and “speed, speed, speed” respectively….some sort of father-daughter mannerisms. For me, it was a good film, when one looks it as an independent product, but when we think it was the same maker who delivered Roja and Iruvar, it falls short.


  74. Does it really come together in the head? What spoiled this film for me was not what was not shown and what we had to put together, but what was shown, IMO.
    I liked most of the first half, but then sometime after the interval, everythingg started to go wrong and sadly there was no redemption till the end. The delivery scene, aargh.. I am willing to stand such contrivance for the imagery it conveys, but even the execution of the scene was particularly terrible. Similiarly the sequences with Mother Superior..

    Now that I’ve read here that Nenjukulle was originally shot on Lakshmi Manchu, I get some idea as to what this film was originally conceived as and probably shot too. It’s a pity Mani chose the lead pairs romance and the songs on the editing table, when looking to keep it short. This really killed the drama.
    Let me see how it fares on the second viewing tomorrow. Till then I can only sigh as to what a great film it could’ve been.


  75. Are you sure this good review had nothing to do with your book…Your book was amazing…But this review makes one wonder if your thoughts and review would’ve been the same if any other director had made the “same” movie….


  76. Intha padathule ivvalu discuss panrathukku onnum ille. Quoting MR by way of Mr. Ayyapan here, let’s not intellectualize. If anything MR’s most juvenile attempt. If it were any other no-name director, we would have kari-thuppified. MR has almost burn’t through all the goodwill earned in the 80s. Make no mistake, this is his Parthale Paravasam. The end is nigh, Brangan, the end for MR is nigh.

    MR doesn’t seem confident in his own product or as assured as you are about his. A good example is one from Mr. Aravind above where he points out correctly the inexcusable misplacement of Nenjukulle song. Many more examples – almost all the songs, their picturisation and the placement thereof highlight these inconsistencies vividly. A confident experience director w/ a bound script would not change these things lightly. MR had a change of heart?

    Now, don’t retaliate w/ a negative review on VR just because… (I’ll show these guys that I am impartial :))


  77. This is a completely biased review
    Dialogs are extremely trite…
    Thulasi character is played really bad…to the point of annoyance

    And it is not that i dont get symbolism…I get the symbolism…

    But it is very unconvincing…You dont want ARjun shouting “shaataan dei”…You show it..that is what a movie is about…(Like Lulllan from Yuva, but here it fails)

    The only interesting things are when Arvind samy is lynched and he ends up acciendtally killing a guy…and the opening few scenes where the little boy acted extremely well..the drunkard…

    The audience is thoroughly disengaged throughout where i watched the movie…
    Not because they dont get symbolism (seriously ithu thaan symbolism aa)

    Seriously rangan, grow up….you cannot be this biased and be a critic

    Movies have to first be interesting…Then you get excited and look into it for the jewels…

    This one is Mani rathnam’s worst movie…(might have been even worse than Raavanan but for the comedy)


  78. Shankar: Actually, I think this is Mani 4.0 :-)

    Phase 1: Till Thalapathy.

    Phase 2: Roja to Bombay.

    Phase 3: Iruvar to Guru (people always lump “Dil Se” in the “terrorist trilogy,” with “Roja” and “Bombay,” but it’s miles and miles away.)

    Phase 4: Raavan(an) onwards.

    Siddarth: Well, she’s being manipulated by her lover and she knows she’s going to sin. The fact that Arjun met Arvind by accident doesn’t mean that everything is preordained. Arjun does a bit of obvious “acting,” when on the bed, being tended to by Arvind, and we can him think up a plan, which is when he asks Arvind to go get Lakshmi. So the fact that their meeting was accidental doesn’t preclude the fact that from Lakshmi’s POV all this was quite unexpected and confusing or whatever human emotion you want to ascribe to her.

    Priya: With writers, it gets confusing as to who wrote what. When Spielberg made a movie from Kubrick’s script (“A.I”), he said that reviewers automatically assumed that all the warm/sentimental parts were his and all the cold/distant parts were written by Kubrick. And then he said it was quite the reverse, that they were trying to channel the newer territory (for them).


  79. oneWithTheH: That film really got under my skin for the reasons I wrote about, but generally speaking I think archetypes work better in masala movies and morality plays, and less in social dramas, where we think of the people are those around us (and the people around us are multi-shaded). Whereas with these other films, they operate on a mythic level, and it doesn’t bother me so much.

    Ayyappan: Sometimes I regret my decision to leave out the “smiles” and “laughs” and so on, because some people seem to have taken some of these conversations at a literal level instead of reading between the lines.



    These two reviews got closest to what the dynamics in the book are about, and no, Mani Ratnam did not give me advice on not to intellectualise.

    Besides, what you point out isn’t an attempt at intellectualisation. And sweet Jesus, if you call this intellectualisation, then what will you call the work of people like Susan Sontag?

    This is just me talking to myself about the film, a running commentary of my viewing experience, so to speak. That’s what my reviews are, an attempt to coming to grips with the film in my head. I know the magudi song came before what Sam said, and I pointed it out in my review (just as I speak about the birth scene). i was simply mulling over the fact that that was all that was shown about Thomas’s “criminal life”.


  80. Well i rather thought that Arjun purposefully planned to get shot in such a time and place which would ensure that only Aravind came forward to help him.And that Lakshmi Manchu was in the loop and knew what was required of her
    Arjun was willing to get shot cos he was intent on provoking Aravind into sinning;If sending him to jail on false charges wasn’t gonna do that,he’ll take Thomas into his wing and corrupt him;Which is what finally broke Aravind’s calm during the jail scene
    Arjun was ofcourse aware of the close relationship b/w Sam and Thomas and that he meditates sometimes in the night by the coast cos he was some kind of a village ‘don’ and bound to know what was happening in the village thro his henchmen
    The only act of cosmos to me was that Sam landed in the same village where Bergman’s had made it big

    ” Arjun does a bit of obvious “acting,” when on the bed, being tended to by Arvind, and we can see him think up a plan, which is when he asks Arvind to go get Lakshmi ”

    I gotta see the movie again for that “obvious acting ” bit.If it does exist then it wasn’t pre-planned at all and rather a plan thought of on the spur which Manchu too agreed to follow upon purely cos she was in love :)


  81. Used to read you reviews a long time back. As with a few people here, I think you have a huge blind spot for MR and tend to add layers and interpretations where none exist. Unlike most of your other reviews which are often bang on the money, this one is quite some way off. Just curious – have you ever considered any MR movie to be a poor watch?

    Back to the movie itself, I was not very impressed with Kadal – which I was thought was only marginally better than Raavan. The poor heroine could not act for nuts – but I think MR should be blamed for putting so much responsibility on a 15 year old kid. Gautam Karthik was comparitively better. Too much overt religious symbolism for my liking, especially from a MR movie. For someone who has always attributed the requisite level of intelligence to his audience, I found it a little patronizing even. The brilliant cinematography aside, there is little else praiseworthy here – the dialogues especially were terrible.


  82. It was an awesome experience watching Kadal. Superb review by Baradhwaj Rangan. I really enjoyed watching the film and songs are great. Picturisation was sensational and I dont understand why Kadal got average reviews in all webpages.


  83. Siddarth, The bit of obvious acting is there. I noticed it only on my second-time viewing, and it makes it all the more clearer that though the meeting was by chance, everything that happened afterwards wasn’t.

    My parents accompanied me to my second-time viewing of the film. Their one-line review when we reached home, “We liked the film a lot except for the climax.” These are the same people who said Mani had probably lost his touch when they came out of our Raavanan viewing. My dad got the good vs evil thing, but he wouldn’t have been so engrossed in the film if it wasn’t for the effectiveness of the drama. They both found all the negative reviews surprising. They said, “There’s nothing in this film to evoke comments like Kadal Pinvaangiduchu or that Mani should just retire and so on.” I found their reactions very surprising since, going by popular opinion, I thought this was supposed to be one of those arty films that no one was supposed to “get”.

    It is one more proof that drama is still Mani’s forte, and he’s still got it, despite popular opinion suggesting otherwise.


  84. I thought it was Celina too but then I also thought it was Berchmans (name of my former Headmaster in school) and not Bergmans….What’s in a name, eh ;-)


  85. Siddarth: If you watch Arjun’s face, you’ll see a close-up where he does an unsubtle bit of “aha, now that I’ve got to meet this man, let me have my revenge” kind of face. You know, like in those old movies where people would bite their lip or narrow their eyes to signify thought process? That type of thing.

    srivi84: A lot of my earlier writings — “Hey Ram,” “Dil Se” etc. — are lost. The only thing I have from those days is a long rant about “Roja” written to unsuspecting friends over eight sides of foolscap paper :-)

    Balaji Sivaraman: “though the meeting was by chance, everything that happened afterwards wasn’t.” Absolutely. That accident was only the meeting between Sam and Bergman. The rest is the plan the latter put in motion.

    Satyam: Thanks. Really enjoyed those two pieces, and yes, really enjoyed the “intellectualisation” :-)

    J: I saw “Berchmans” in a couple of reviews as well. Hence my question to Shankar.


  86. Brilliant observations. Agree with a lot of your comments – was quite surprised no one before had noticed the physical styling resemblance between Gautam and Christ & the other Biblical parallels


  87. Thank you, I searched on your blog as well as on google but could not find it. I wanted to re-read your thoughts on ‘Dil Se’, I’ve forgotten what you wrote back then. (I vaguely remember reading your review on the ‘Sunday Express’?). I would love to see the foolscap papers, though! :)


  88. When I came out of the hall, I was left with the distinct impression that MR could have made a commercially successful, mainstream venture out of the same storyline but still chose to go a different path and I was really perplexed by this decision – the “legacy to follow the legend” sort of explains to me some of the decisions he’s made. Thanks.

    Isn’t it time for MR to dispense with Brinda master? Adiye was godawful…For that matter, maybe ARR should just compose an OST, MR can shoot a few music videos but the final film is songless. Most of the songs (save the simple but effective Magudi and the milked-for-what-its-worth Chithirai Nila) were needless breaks that ruined the narrative flow for me.

    Also, Wikipedia has Kadal listed at 164 mts while it was surely 15 mts shorter where I saw it here in Bangalore. The liplock was missing as was the 2nd stanza of Adiye. Also a couple of shots from the TV trailer didn’t figure. Anyone else faced the same problem? Heavily chopped out at the editing table? Maybe we’ll get our answers only when the DVD comes out…

    Btw, why does Thomas feel the need to meet his stepmother in person and break the news of his father’s demise?


  89. srivi84: I became a writer only in 2003, so you couldn’t have read “Dil Se” in the Express.

    J: For me too, the censor certificate said 160-odd minutes and the film was about 2-1/2 hours. Must be some last-minute chopping.

    About Thomas, that house is his only sense of a proper family — parents etc. — and he seemed to be the kind who went there even if he was being cursed. But more importantly, his transformation begins when his father dies in his arms, and it didn’t out of place that he felt the need to inform his “stepmother.”

    Padawan: Some of it made it to a book in a more mature form. That was a younger kid who loved shooting his mouth off :-)

    And even those who don’t care for the film should read these (links are above):

    From Satyam’s piece:

    “Both Kadal and Raavan(an) are works where a traumatic history informs the present. The older film justifies a great deal of its anti-hero’s actions by revealing this past in a more or less traditionally narrated flashback but one where knowledge of this terrible event re-orders the central dichotomy at the heart of the story. We are always in Raavan’s world but after the flashback we also empathize with him more than with his counterpart. The woman who completes the equation is placed between these two alternatives of supposed good and evil where as she eventually learns the two exchange places. This essential triangle is replicated in Kadal with Thomas becoming the connecting link between Sam and Bergmans or the one who occupies both worlds at different points.”

    And from GF’s piece:

    “If Ratnam’s ambitious, misunderstood previous film presented a vision of the world where the Gods were fallen, broken things, his latest offering has a more optimistic or, at least, a more balanced spiritual bent, concerned as it is with redemption, with ascension. Each one of the central characters here is given a moment of resurrection—whether it’s the passing shot of a child rising from his slumber atop his mother’s corpse, or the introductory moment for a young woman who alights from a hospital gurney, unhooking her IV and walking out as if she’d simply shaken off her mortality.”


  90. Don’t mean to crowd out things here but I responded to something GF said in his piece elsewhere where I then also used to opportunity to argue again with you on the question of song placement in the film. I’m putting up this entire, and admittedly unbearably long comment here, using this flimsy excuse!

    “here he’s still interested in their dynamic but he’s rather more focused on the project of secularizing the ideas of good and evil.”

    this is probably the single most important insight on the film. Ratnam’s most overtly religious film and one that employs the symbolism through and through and yet it does not seem to be more than a framing device to explore a set of ideas that as you’ve pointed out pop up elsewhere in the director’s work as well. In this sense Raavan too could be re-examined because here too there is an overt connection made with a very hallowed bit of tradition and belief and yet these latter metaphors are totally absent in the work. It is as if the Ramayana is entirely possible without there being any greater, over-arching belief system grafted onto it. Of course there is a certain truth to this gesture. Because the ‘mythic’ is not the same as the ‘religious’. A discussion for a different day. But in any case this is one of the reasons I found the film relatively difficult to interpret. Because it isn’t just about a normal narrative that uses all these religious tropes but also one that doubles down as a near parable. And so in a sense it is not just a set of religious cues but the structure itself that is employed. Ratnam gives the film over to this logic. A very daring and certainly risky move. So even though at one level the secularization works (to the degree that the religious elements are meant to frame deeper human conflicts that do not depend on the same) at another level we are in the world of a parable where it’s harder to keep the secularization operative in the very same way. I am not sure if I have a final answer on how all of this works but there are parallel structural moments elsewhere in Ratnam which I think are less successfully resolved. For instance in Dil Se the problem with the two halves isn’t really at the level of basic narrative (though I can certainly see how the second one seems more chaotic and more fragmentary and so on.. this is ultimately less problematic) but moreso in a greater tonal or mood sense. the first half constitutes a kind of vacation from the nation-state. It’s a dark, mysterious world but seductive in lots of ways. When the action shifts to Delhi the shift in formal choices (on Ratnam’s part) are perfectly comprehensible. But the hallucinogenic hyper-reality that Delhi represents seems to be completely severed from the fable-like ambience of the first half. Again this is defensible in a way (and I’ve done this elsewhere) but for the purposes of the Kadal analogy it’s problematic because Ratnam cannot easily establish a connection between the two worlds and the politics of this film in a sense requires it. There is obviously a disjunction between the two worlds and a profound one which the fictions of the nation-state cannot bridge. This is where the choices made are very prudent and manifest the essential political tension of the state. But the narrative eventually ends with a moment of destructive transcendence which cannot easily be connected to either world (of either half). and perhaps it is this ‘deadlock’ (as Zizek would say) that makes this the most honest ending. The disjunction is definitive. However this impasse isn’t necessarily the best ‘final’ response to all the questions the film has raised along the way. Confirming the disjunction is disappointing even. Whatever side one comes down on the realities of these two worlds are very distinct and the film doesn’t have a controlling metaphor or set of visual cues or what have you that can effect even a provisional transition. The SRK character is not enough and the Manisha character remains a total enigma. But the reason I brought up this very long detour is that two otherwise disjunctive modes of accessing reality are completely fused in kadal. Very successfully therefore. In the New testament you have parables that similarly operate in the ordinary world. But as readers of the Bible (if not believers) we are never meant to go outside these parables. The world that there is through this Biblical prism is completely susceptible to the parable framing. But this as you’ve pointed out is not what Ratnam intends. This is not a religious world-view in his work all of a sudden. In Raavan there’s no issue on this score because the reality of this world does not have to accept that of the Ramayana in any sense. The allusions are enough much as in a masala film there might be all sorts of sub-plots that echo tropes or themes or stories from the Mahabharata (or elsewhere) but these choices do not alter the ways in which the contemporary story is presented to us. Kadal however tries something quite unique on this score and succeeds marvelously. But for this very reason it is hard to argue with it. Because can one be sure that one isn’t in the world of the parable and simply in a more normative, say Bharthiraja-inspired universe? I argue that both levels are present in the film but this doesn’t mean one can extract one from the other. This isn’t like the Dil Se’s two halves. Everything operates at the same plane of reality from the very beginning and then right through. This is where the secularization question at any rate becomes somewhat more difficult to judge. But this is one of many reasons why (and though this might be still early) I’d be willing to hazard the judgment that this might be one of Ratnam’s very important films.

    On a related note even though I otherwise disagree with Rangan I can understand his point if re-framed this way. The songs are more or less perfectly placed in the film (at the most one could argue that Adiye though a striking video doesn’t follow as fluidly) but rather than interrupt a narrative that doesn’t require songs it is that the narrative is already flirting with transcendence at every point. Even though the film has its very raw moments of ordinary reality these can be put under the parable rubric without much difficulty. The songs (or at least the videos not part of the background score) possibly break away from this logic. In the usual film even where there is ‘interruption’ there is often the reward of a limited transcendence. The lovers enter a magical world not very respectful of the ordinary constraints of reality, or a burst of energy in a group situation where similarly the existing order is completely subverted, so on and so forth. In Kadal the songs often do the very same but this interrupts the tone of the parable which cannot account for these moments in the same way. Because the videos threaten to subvert this essential framing device. Rangan says he has less problems with the videos in the second half because the characters are more well-established. Perhaps. But thee videos in this half are also less obtrusive, much more ‘under the radar’. Nenjukulle for instance overlaps with dialog on the score and is very stealthily introduced. Moongil thottam is too ‘calming’ and for the purposes of this point I’m arguing ‘understated’ a piece of music to really interrupt anything. And Ratnam unlike previous instances (say something generally similar in AP) refuses to abandon the sense of place here. He precisely does not break away from the world of his film. No ‘dream-like’ moment therefore. Again I’m not saying I agree completely with Rangan even using this perspective but I can better translate his response this way.


  91. Satyam: Thanks for that. It was more than just the dream/not-dream aspect, but I don’t have the time now so I’ll elaborate later. But wanted to add that GF’s reading of the end was really interesting. As I said in the review, for me “the film’s biggest problem is its downplaying of the battle for Thomas’s soul” — but his reading is that this downplaying is intentional and that he’s out of the whole religious frame of the story. That’s something to think about.


  92. @Brangan You are right. Eventually he gets evicted. But then so did Father Sam. The fashion in which Father Bergmans got evicted, however was completely different from what happened to Father Sam (May be the presence of so many villagers propelled the Bishop to take such a harsh decision in the case of Father Sam but then the Bishop had decided he was guilty even before the investigation began). While the Church was willing to forgive Bergamns, the only reason he was evicted was because he forced them to by not repenting. He had an option of staying. With Father Sam, there was no such option. I felt that saying Bergmans got evicted seemed not to highlight the history behind it which was in complete contrast to what happened to Father Sam.

    By the way, when can we expect your review on Vishwaroopam?


  93. Thank you lovely people. Now if only Dr. Rangan could use his good offices and convey these thoughts to Shri Mani Ratnam and Rajiv Menon Esquire, then perhaps a whole new analytical chapter can begin.


  94. Saw this on Wednesday..at the heart of it, the fight for Tom’s soul is what a lot of the reviews have missed. Where Tom is prepared to make decision on a moral test which is presented to him in the climax, a test which Father Sam fails , and also the various junctures in the film which lead to the shaping of Tom’s decision in that moment shows how at the end of it all, you are the Maker of your own destiny through whichever path you choose. Due to its religious overtones, the film will be lost amongst the masses unless they’re read on Christian teachings, nevertheless it’s one that will be held as a Mani Ratnam classic over time. The themes explored are the product of the protagonist’s moral compass. Photography was brilliant & there’s nothing more that needs to be said about Rahman.


  95. I’ve just heard that a Christian group wants the film to delete scenes that hurt Christian sentiments. What a load of hogwash, don’t these people have nothing better to do? I’m Christian and I had absolutely no problem with any of the sentiments conveyed in view of the religion from the film. These groups need to grow up and act as adults.


  96. @Brangan Instead of replying to your response on my comment, by mistake I posted my response here. Please delete it. I’ll repost it in reply to your response.


  97. @Brangan You are right. Eventually he gets evicted. But then so did Father Sam. The fashion in which Father Bergmans got evicted, however was completely different from what happened to Father Sam (May be the presence of so many villagers propelled the Bishop to take such a harsh decision in the case of Father Sam but then the Bishop had decided he was guilty even before the investigation began). While the Church was willing to forgive Bergmans, the only reason he was evicted was because he forced them to by not repenting. He had an option of staying. With Father Sam, there was no such option. I felt that saying Bergmans got evicted seemed not to highlight the history behind it which was in complete contrast to what happened to Father Sam.

    By the way, when can we expect your review on Vishwaroopam?


  98. Mentioned this to Satyam elsewhere but the volume of comments here is heartening. It’s not that I agree with so much that’s being said on this thread but the impassioned responses on this particular corner of the blogosphere represent a better option than the virtual silent treatment afforded to this truly interesting work elsewhere in the media.


  99. I agree with your statement that this is new-age Maniratnam. As part of his 4.0 metamorphosis, he should keep Suhasini away from writing dialogues and he should stop writing screenplay on his own. I felt Ravanan and Iruvar in parts (especially Prakash Raj’s dialogues are pretentious) and Tamil cinema’s major problem is director’s writing screenplay irrespective of their ability.

    I think one of the main contribution to make this movie interesting inspite of uni-dimensional characters should be Jeyamohan (conspiciously missing in your review). He brought in the background of the story (deep south of Tamil Nadu, which you wont normally see) and good realistic dialogues (albeit it being heavily christian some of it was new to me). Apart from this, the story and screenplay is decent – nothing good/great (and the climax was too ordinary with alot of cliches) and two songs felt out of place/thrusted with no reason.


  100. I thought it was the mother initially. But now it seems like Satan talking to Jesus. Naan- satan, Nee- Jesus or somebody who is chosen the good way.

    naan unna nenapen – the devil thinks about God
    nee enna marappa – God tends to forget about the devil ( as happens in the movie )
    naan adipen.. nee siripa.. – devils reacts through war, God through smile to anybody harming them
    nee oor suthi.. naan unna suthi.. – God wonders about everyone, the devil only about God?
    naan edhir.. nee pudhir.. – Devil is the opposite, God is a puzzle
    naan magudi da.. nee paambu ..- Devil has control, God is under control.

    This song is played when Thomas turns toward Satan, and it matches well, doesn’t it? For me, the opening beat in itself told me the innocence of the little Thomba is gone. :)


  101. you have a tedious analysis of ‘kadal’.

    i did not care for it too much as i did not need any helping from you to understand the strengths and flaws of this movie. plus you think that ratnam is a genius in steering away from the usual cliches of main-stream movie making.

    unfortunately, i think, he has fallen into a christian cliche of the timeless battle between the good and the evil.

    the *real* cliche is that the good always wins. in all the religions i have come across.

    even ratnam failed to steer away from that cliche. dragging into this movie, a christian context, does not add glitter to the overall storyline. unless christian vocabulary counts as plus points in a thematic representations of archetypes.

    ratnam’s problems are two-fold and oppose each other: specificity and universality

    by being too specific in language and custom to manapad, where the movie was shot and is based off of, there is a disconnect with the larger audience that simply does not get it.

    and by dramatizing a core christian value of satan versus the angel, the universality was ambitious in it’s thrust and in over-reaching, lost it’s grip.


  102. I loved the movie immensely as it tells the story of my community. The prostitute’s burial was exquisitely taken. The movie could have ended right there and I would have gone home satisfied. The rest of the movie pales in comparison to this high-art.

    So who exactly are these Christians with strange sounding foreign names? Thomas, Beatrice, Bergmans. How did this come about? Mani Ratnam’s Kadal needs this backstory of the fishermen community, to be understood in the Christian context peculiar to this film. I am from there and I thought this would be essential reading for anybody trying to understand these hot-headed characters of Kadal: http://wp.me/s4Mc7-kadal


  103. Satyam,

    Interesting thesis;erudite but does it really need that much doctoral exposition ?

    Even in the ‘Indian film’ genre EVERY member of the audience knows he is suspending belief for a while when a song pops up,even if it is ‘built’ into the screenplay eg a wedding song(Yaro Yarodi) or a cabaret(Hello,Mr Ethir..) . Intelligent film makers like MR persist in embedding arguably ‘needless’ songs in his movies .For me,needless is anything that jars,not needless for the story .It jars when characters ,their personas and EQs well defined break into song/dance eg Bea in this movie.This child woman,emotionally scarred executes a rather sensual ballet in the sands .The singing and dancing seem beyond her character’s emotional structure.We are shown later that that is JUST NOT the way this girl would remonstrate to this guy who is besotted by her.
    When the titular character in say ‘Boss engira Bhaskaran’ dances all of a sudden with his girl in the Alps ,it doesn’t jar so much:he is a roguish layabout .
    Perhaps this is why many lesser mortals feel mortified(poor pun intended) when we see uptight,muscle bound hero-assasins break into dance and less so when college students in love and jilted ones sing in the movies.


  104. sorry MR.RANGAN you are a big hypocrite……how can you write good things about boring films like NEP and kadal… ALEX PANDIAN was much better film than this one…..


  105. My 2-cents on this. There are some pointers or goofs:

    1. The cemetry for Sagaya Mary (where the exhumed body was re-buried, thanks to Bergmans) seemed to show her year of death as 1992.

    2. The vehicles standing in the hospital parking area (when Father Sam left Thomas behind with the bike) had TN-22/ 31 kind-of registrations. But, Father Sam’s bike had a TNI registration. May be, he is an antic-lover. After all, he preserved the tape-recorder and cassette for a lot many years

    3. Bergmans was speaking on the old, dial-type telephone, when Thomas walked into his room, with Bea.


  106. Kiruba/Vinod: I think the tape recorder offers a clue as to when the story roughly begins — but I also think that the “timelessness” of the story is more to the point here.

    Here’s an interesting piece on the film, and some of the commenters from here seem to have commented there as well :-)


    And from this Jerry Pinto interview (he’s shortlisted for the Hindu fiction prize this year, so do come to the Lit Fest this weekend if you’re in Chennai), an approach to books that’s valuable as an approach to films too (and not just this film). It certainly is how I look at films:

    “I am glad that you feel that what the book is really about is open to interpretation because if there is a single unitary interpretation, it wouldn’t be much of a book

    I meant what I said about a book being co-invented each time someone reads it. We read books but that’s not what we do, as reader…

    We also read onto books the passions and predicaments of our own lives; we read into them, mining for clues to how to live our lives, looking for signs that we are not alone, that what we have done has been done before, what we have suffered has happened to others; we read past them into the life of the author and the details and the reviews and all the other paraphernalia of literary critique,


  107. Vinod / brangan: Thanks. It was the curious case of the missing cell phones that set me off initially. Had thought the novelty of the tape recorder suggested something abt the period. But then, I found the tombstone marked with 1992 on the 2nd viewing and that complicated my understanding.
    Yes, of course, I agree the story is timeless.
    And thanks for the link to Pinto’s interview.


  108. It’s very rare that anything can get worse on a repeat watch for me. think it was Thiruttu Payale, when it happened last. And in such cases, you don’t choose to watch it again really, you get dragged along.

    So, Did it get better? Yes, but not to the extent as with his last 3 films.


  109. As the official score-keeper of comments on BR’s blog – more number of people have read and commented on this review than people who have actually seen the movie – worldwide.



  110. I now discuss the relevance of the bastard, the prostitute, the prostitute’s burial, her reburial and then lastly the Virgin Mother Mary in : The Pearl Fishers of Mani Ratnam’s “Kadal” http://wp.me/s4Mc7-kadal

    I call out these characters by their (im)moral titles given by society to exploit the plot-line to it’s fullest. i understand these terms are not endearing to the actors who have done an extremely good job in their portrayals. I am not exploring Gautham Karthik, for instance, just his character.

    the last exploration in my piece will be that of Sam the priest titled “The Tortured Christ”. Stay in touch, work in progress…

    There were a lot of you that came from Bharadwaj Rangan’s blog to mine. I am ever grateful for the connecting link.


  111. you should have Released the book after this Movie, we might have got Excellent explanations from Mani sir….!! This is The Problem with Mani sir, He Always Surpass our expectations and we are unable to catch his thoughts. After few years we Realize what He has done to our Indian film Industry….!! did anyone observed the scene where Priya Beatrice erases the sins of Thomos by her hands. This is the brilliance of mani sir how he portrayed a girl as an angel without loosing her childish innocence… hail you Mani sir…..!!!


  112. Am a little surprised that apart from a brief mention by Athreya (in a slightly different context), no one seems to think that Arjun’s character being named Bergmans is a homage to the great director. Come to think of it, no one else captured the negativity and despair of Christianity like he did, and so when Maniratnam got a chance to do a film based heavily on Christian mythology he names the darkest and the most sinister character after the man who who captured the darkness on screen the best.

    Do we still need spoiler alerts?

    In the classroom scene at the beginning, Arjun makes a reference to their being 12 jolly men and one serious character. That seemed to hint at the last supper with Arvind Swamy/Brother Sam as the Jesus. Even later, Bea seems to talk about him being born in a golden cradle (just the cradle taken as a reference here). However, the character arc towards the second half and the initial Sahaya Mary naming leads us to believe Thomas is the “avatar” of Christ in this movie. Is it reading too much or are the characters drawn to indicate that there is a little bit of God/Christ in everyone?

    Also, given how detailed your review and your take on visual cues was, interesting to see you make no mention of Arjun hanging in mid air in the climax. With the hands stretched out and with him about to be dumped into water or when he is lifted back, this is almost like a reverse of the crucifixion – an almost visual representation of the Satan/Bergmans as the anti-Christ. And yet Arjun says “naan jeyuchum saaga poren, nee thothutu vaazha pora” which is like a take on how Christ had to die despite being a God and the ultimate power. And then there is a character shift with him disclosing that Bea is not dead. Again, a little bit of the God/the Good in everyone?

    Apart from Thulasi’s acting, or the lack of it, this was perhaps Mani Ratnam’s best since Kannathil Mutthamitaal, and a clear reminder of why he should stick to making movies in Tamizh and not try and compromise further in trying to reach out to a national audience.

    Also, as some of the commentators (is that the term for those who comment?) have put mildly and Pyle has aggressively stated, there are a lot of places where Manu Ratnam seems to spoon feed the audience.

    I for one found the delivery scene most intense – in a sense it is the completion of Goutham’s bad cycle culminating in his mom’s death with him lying on her tummy in a foetal position to the delivery scene where Thulasi cuts the umblical cord (indicating a break from the past, starting off a new life and of course the overt influence to good blood on the hands in the boat scene to follow). The use of Magudi again is rather clever, one part near the start of each half – the first one showing the rough treatment he gets at the hands of the people around him and the second part with him delivering the rough treatment to the people around. So on and so forth. There is much to think and much to write about this movie, and it deserves a second viewing. Welcome back Mani, or as you put it welcome Mani Version n.0 . :)


  113. * must have read – ” starting from his mom’s death with him lying on her tummy in a foetal position and culminating at the delivery scene where Thulasi cuts the umblical cord… “. Please to excuse that and a lot of other grammatical blunders. Effects of typing out a comment late in the night.


  114. Kutty: As to why certain things aren’t there in a review (not necessarily this one), it’s a combination of things. Sometimes a point or two doesn’t fit into the narrative arc of the review (they would just stick out in an ungainly fashion). Sometimes due to deadline pressure, you leave out things. And sometimes just one viewing doesn’t mean you get it all. It’s like I’ll notice 10 things, and you’ll see 10 other other things, and by sharing what we saw, we begin to piece together inferences from our respective viewings. And then we take these learnings into future viewings.

    Which is why the comments section is so valuable, because the review (or an article) is only a starting point — hopefully — for a discussion about a film, and even in a film so reviled as this one, it’s gratifying that at least a handful of commenters chipped in with really good points. I guess “Kadal” is out of theatres now, but when I see it on DVD or whatever, I’ll certainly have these points in mind.

    And does anyone else feel that — as with “Raavan(an)” — once the initial hysteria died down, we’ve begun to see a slightly (emphasis on “slightly”) more measured responses to the film?


  115. I come to this place as a ritual to see how like minded Kadal belivers like me muse.. great insight from BR, Kutty and others…. reverse crusifixion man that is good… BR more stuff for your next interview with MR… I am glad MR is back in Tamil.. Ravanna and Kadal is a new Mani fr Tamil cinema…


  116. Brangan:I think this is the response pattern we’re gonna see for all future Mani films. Unless it’s an obvious crowd pleaser.


  117. “Loke bole Crucifixion, ami boli Crucifact” (“People say Crucifixion, I say Crucifact”)?- Charuprakash Ghosh in Mahapurush


  118. Abdul: Thanks for that link. Very nicely written, even if naysayers will claim that he’s defending the film as expected. “Endha padaippukkum or adippadai nallennam aarambathil alikka padavendum” – really agree with this line.


  119. brangan – curious as to why you have not responded to people in the comment section wrt not you mentioning Jeyamohan in your review.

    p.s-watched it today and liked it better than Ravanan. It had its imperfections and how I wish as a Mani fan, he had managed the climax and some other pieces better, to get due credit and for people to not write him off.


  120. Dillikidiva: Not really sure. Apparently even the version that played in Mumbai was without subtitles.

    abi: This is something that I have been doing for a while, because at the end of the day it’s difficult to point to specific lines or scenes and say this is who was responsible for it (as opposed to something like cinematography). I refer to the director and leave it at that.

    But I would also be interested if someone could point me to reviews where the writer’s name has been included in a non-cliched way — i.e. other than “written by X” or “the dialogues by X are excellent” or some such thing.


  121. Any explanations to why during the opening credits where Mani’s name comes exactly when the Thomas thekid spits alcohol … almost on top of his name.. this is no coincidence, right..? Or is it just me….

    I think next inline for Mani’s ‘dual plane’ cinema is Buddhism (what can you call movies like Thalapathi, Raavanan, Kadal) .. Mani should bring Gauthum Buddha to life in the corporate world of urban India… where a young business tycoon goes from a all concquering takeover king and changing after seeing the sufferings of poor India (child labour would be apt) to a humanitarian worker….. perfect place to bring back Mani’s socialist ideas..


  122. A completely unconnected article, but these lines seem to be quite relevant to this article: “A friend of mine has loved and studied Bob Dylan for 45 years. He is a world expert. And yet he invariably rushes to criticise Dylan’s latest album. In fact, I sense that my friend’s frustrations with Dylan’s work today poison his attitude towards the singer’s entire corpus. I try to take a different view. Given all the happiness Dylan has given me, I feel only gratitude for still further, new pleasures I get from his work today – even if it is a lesser type of pleasure that I now experience. Some fans believe that artists “owe” them an output of a requisite quality. I think it is me, the fan, who owes a debt of thanks.

    The same problem afflicts great film directors. A colleague of mine recently complained that Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love wasn’t as good as Annie Hall or Manhattan. Well, no, it isn’t as good. But can’t we enjoy To Rome with Love without the experience being contaminated by comparisons with Annie Hall ? I think we can, and, indeed, that we should.”



  123. Yes and no..if you experience a lesser (or some kind of ) enjoyment it is yes, but if you are left wondering what you are doing in the movie theater then no..to me just ‘fan’dom is not enough..and if it happens repeatedly then it is time to un’fan’!


  124. parthibanmanoharan: Thanks. Some nice bits there. When was this interview conducted, BTW? (Obviously it was after the release…)

    PS: Now I guess there’s no need for a “Conversations – Part 2” :-)


  125. Onnu nalla theriyudhu….lots of hard core MR fans trying to imitate other’s invisible , hidden subtle ( only visible to them as if MR made the film only to them) details about MR’s narrative/script/charecterization…I am an great fan of MR also…but there are too many weak points and flaws all over the narration.

    Most of the MR fans trying to tell like the Sandhana Barathi charecter in “Anbe Shivam ” identifying the details in the painting of Kamal depicting the salary of the comrades…and when Nazar asks how he knew those details….you know the rest…

    common guys leave Mani alone….he will come back ( hope fully) to meet his commercial satiety soon…illenna Madras Talkies…..koodiya seekiram…you know what I mean…romba details thedaa deenga….. apporum MR ae ungal thediganu vara poraaru.


  126. Hi BR,

    I hope u might have come across Tamil critic Gnani sankaran’s strong words on the kissing scene in kadal. I know its a belated question still I need a reply from you sir. No mainstream critic has failed to register their condemnation on this matter . Just because it was a MR movie ordinary viewers might have brushed away this criticism . Thats ok if a viewer has partisan attitude on this but don’t the critics have the right to question a creator.

    Q1) Are critics behaving like fans & forgetting their role ?
    Q2) coming back to age old Q: do creators have social responsibility as movies in india create lasting impressions on vidalai manangal(adults & kids) as their main source of entertainment is cinema cinema cinema


  127. Sai Raghu: (A1) A critic is not some kind of judge who condemns “moral behaviour.” He is an interlocutor between a viewer and the film. (A2) No. And neither do artists.


  128. i finally saw Kadal.

    First thoughts are, I didn’t like it, I struggled to overcome some of it flaws. There weren’t many, but big enough to push to me towards not liking this film.

    The biggest flaw is that the way the Bergmans character is represented comes across as amateurish. The self-professed Satan wore very thin quite quickly with me. What was worse was that it made me think of Anupam Kher in Roop Ki Rani Choron ka Raja who constantly spew out “shaitan ki kasam”. I have always associated Ratnam with someone who doesn’t do “overly melodramatic” but the Bergmans character seems to be making up for 30 years worth. In Raavanan/Raavan I put the any glimpses of the overly dramatic due to the terrible acting abilities of Aishwarya Rai and to a lesser extent Abhishek Bachchan.

    I also took issue with the last 20/30 minutes of the film. I still cannot understand why Bergmans did not kill Sam. Up to that point I hadn’t seen Bergmans look like he facing a dilemma with his actions. If i was seeing someone like the Inba character from Ayudha Ezhuthu, I would be more willing to accept the decision to spare Sam.

    I think Bea should have been killed, i think the triumph of “good” would have had a better impact had Bea died. Similar to the ending of Kaakha Kaakha.

    My last issue with the film was with the camerawork / editing. Whilst I agree we weren’t overloaded with beauty on the screen, I just felt that some of the angles and shots taken and used in the final film had the affect that it distracted me and made me much aware of the fact that I was watching a film. It was very much noticeable in the scene where the young Tom is on the boat for the first time and then the moments leading up to the transition to the older Tom.

    so these are the reasons why i didn’t like the film.

    p.s. it has probably been ages since you last saw this film, and I’m raising points on things that you may not be able to remember. it’s just that I don’t know anyone else who has seen the film and I need to vent!!


  129. I honestly do not understand all the flak this movie received . I was riveted for the first half hour of the movie and as you mentioned it was the closest Mani ratnam has come to potraying rawness on film. But somehow the non descript bland raw beach turns into a goa like place with good looking dancing dudes like goa. In the end I felt this movie had two parts a ” nalla” part and a ” ketta” part. Nalla part being the duality of good and evil basically all scenes involving Arjun and aravind swamy .Ketta part being the love track which kept reminding me that I am watching a usual Mani movie where he does not like to get his hands dirty. Special kudos to Rajiv Menon for excellent work in the climax sequence. I have not seen such realistic depiction of storm in the high seas in an Indian movie


  130. Despite Maniratnam’s self confessesd atheism, why this preoccupation with religious themes. Dalapathy, Raavanan and this. Is he at conflict with his ideology and is this conflict percolating into his movies?


  131. Sutheesh Kumar: Why should anybody have belief in God to enjoy mythology or be intrigued by it? Would you have had the same doubt if he had tackled Norse Mythology?


  132. This was the most senseless movie to have been made…ever in Tamil cinema…and we have a 3 page review…OMG, ROFL!


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