Walking out of Idhu Kathirvelan Kadhal, I wondered if anyone attempting to make a romantic comedy these days should first be handed a DVD of Galatta Kalyanam, which, forty-five years after its release, is still unparalleled in its fabrication of comic obstacles on the way to happily-ever-after. The director of this film, SR Prabhakaran, seems to be after a similarly lighthearted romp, at the close of which Kathirvelan (Udhayanidhi Stalin) ends up with Pavithra (Nayantara). But instead of manufacturing funny situations, he settles for sometimes-funny one-liners by Santhanam (who plays Kathirvelan’s best buddy Mayilvahanan). And the rest of the narrative is filled with disposable subplots with mega-serial levels of melodrama.
One of these subplots is about Kathirvelan’s estrangement with Mayilvahanan. In another, Kathirvelan attempts to patch things up between his sister and her husband after they fight and she returns, crying, to her parents’ home. In a third subplot, we have Kathirvelan falling for Pavithra and discovering that she’s in love with a cad – he has to prevent that union (because that’s what true love is, looking out for your “figure” even if she’s expressed zero interest in you). Then there’s the long-running feud between Kathirvelan’s brother-in-law and the latter’s neighbour, who happens to be Pavithra’s father (Jayaprakash). Kathirvelan has to end this animosity if he wants to marry Pavithra.
This last subplot is all that’s needed – that’s the plot, really. It begins to play out well into the second half, and that’s when the film really perks up, with all sorts of cheerful nonsense like a mimicry artist and the ability to overhear conversations in a house across the street. In the last half-hour, we finally get something close to the romantic comedy we were promised. Why, then, the sluggish couple of hours earlier? And why the weepy lectures, from fathers and sons and sisters and brothers-in-law, about love? When, early on, Kathirvelan is given the brush-off by Pavithra, Mayilvahanan instructs him about the “cockroach theory.” However much you try to ward off the insect, it keeps coming back – and that, apparently, is how Kathirvelan should
continue with his stalking persevere. One wonders if that theory isn’t applicable to the “family sentiment” that infests our films. However much you want it gone, it will probably survive a nuclear holocaust.
* Ithu Kathirvelan Kadhal = This is Kathirvelan’s love…
* Galatta Kalyanam = See here.
* Santhanam = at-times amusing actor who adores alliteration.
* mega-serial = tear-soaked soaps where the utterance of every line is followed by reaction shots from everyone else in the cast.
* “figure” = slang for chick, who in the eyes of the Tamil-cinema hero, is hopefully modeled after the well-rounded figure 8.
* family sentiment = see “mega-serial” above.
An edited version of this piece can be found here. Copyright ©2014 The Hindu. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.