The biggest takeaway from ‘Kallachirippu’, presented by Karthik Subbaraj, is that it exists

Posted on July 26, 2018


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OTT platforms may finally be on their way to dispensing content that does not have “mass appeal”.

The OTT media space (I’m including web series, here) in Tamil is still evolving, so everything from Balaji Mohan’s As I’m Suffering From Kadhal (on Hotstar) to the new Karthik Subbaraj offering Kallachirippu (written and directed by Roju; available on Zee5) is better seen as a work in progress – something like what we saw in the early days of MTV. We laugh (affectionately) at those music videos today, but they were important steps in the evolution of the form. Is this sounding defensive? Perhaps. There are going to be those who say they have access to the best of, say, HBO shows, so why bother with these baby steps? Fair enough. But for those who seek interesting Tamil content (as opposed to those who also seek Tamil content), something like Kallachirippu is a genuinely interesting change of pace.

The title is an indication of things to come. “Kalla” refers to something sly, deceitful – and this is the closest the Tamil entertainment space has gotten to those noir films about a nest of vipers, with everyone out to get everyone else. Only, this isn’t about a bunch of criminals but a family – so even the equivalent of the femme fatale (24-year old Mahati, played by Amrutha Srinivasan) isn’t so much a hard-bitten vamp as a creation of her circumstances. Take the terms of the moment – “toxic masculinity,” “male privilege…” Mahati’s father is all that. A part of me kept wondering why Amrutha was playing Mahati as such an angry, frustrated woman all the time. Aren’t there any vulnerable shades to this character? But you look at her father and realise she’s at the end of her tether, a pressure cooker waiting to explode.

Some of the most interesting moments in the series are the ones between Mahati and her mother, ranging from a quarrel about a blouse to quieter stretches of “girl talk” – but there’s a TV-serial air in the staccato rhythms of the performances. The scenes don’t flow as much as you’d like, and some of this is surely due to the direction. The writing, too. What makes these first-time criminals so icy-cool, even when they consider slicing up bodies? Where’s the sweaty tension that drives noir? Instead, we get melodrama. I burst out laughing when a character’s mother begins to whip him with a belt. Now, we are seriously in TV-serial land. Then again, maybe the brief was to target that audience, but with a more sophisticated narrative?

Continued at the link above.

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