Normally, I wouldn’t have written about Azhagu Kutti Chellam. It would have been one of those films I saw just because the job demands it – maybe you’ll have to refer back to it someday while writing about another movie, or maybe there’s an actor in a small role who shows promise. But that still would not merit a review because this isn’t “cinema” at all. Everything’s so childish, so stagey and amateurish that it’s a waste of time trying to talk about various aspects, giving them serious consideration. If this review is here, then, it’s because of Pasanga 2. If I could review something as childish, stagey and amateurish as that film, then why not this one? But also, what does it say when newcomer director Charles makes a movie that’s a notch better than one by an established filmmaker like Pandiraj? I’m not saying Azhagu Kutti Chellam is a huge improvement. On a scale of ten, this would be two to Pasanga 2’s one. Still…
The comparison comes about because both films are about children, and while Pasanga 2 takes the easy way out with a “this is the problem, this is the solution” narrative, Azhagu Kutti Chellam is actually quite ambitious – too ambitious, really, given Charles’s skills. There are many story strands, all of them involving children. One is about school kids wanting to stage a Nativity play with a live infant on stage. Another is about a teacher yearning to become a mother. A third is about a teen finding herself pregnant. Then we have the Sri Lankan couple who lost their little girl in the civil war. A fifth subplot deals with an auto-rickshaw driver who, after three girls, is looking forward to a boy. The backdrops are almost as many: an orphanage, an Iyengar household, a Sri Lankan family, a couple that’s getting a divorce. All of this, too, impacts the children.
The film careens wildly between comedy and drama, and it made me profoundly depressed that, in 2016, we still have to face directors who treat their job as nothing more than “telling a story,” with little knowledge of craft. At the Chennai International Film Festival yesterday, I saw K Balachander’s Manadhil Urudhi Vendum. It’s hardly a great movie, and yet there was this scene that stuck with me – when a camera moves about on its axis and captures both the inside and the outside of a house, instead of cutting between the two locations. What does it say when, thirty years later, filmmakers don’t try for even this basic level of craftsmanship? Can you become a doctor without studying anatomy? But in films, apparently, anyone can do anything.
But I write about Azhagu Kutti Chellam not to complain, but to talk of how – despite the increasingly ludicrous proceedings – it manages a few touching moments. Many of them have to do with Karunas, who plays that auto-rickshaw driver. When he learns that his fourth child is a girl too, he walks away dejectedly. But as he explains later, it’s not that he did not want the little girl. It’s just that he’d rather have had a boy, and he needed some time to process the disappointment. I wanted this character to have his own movie, which is more than I felt about anyone in Pasanga 2.
- azhagu kutti chellam = my little darling
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