Kabadadaari, with Sibi Sathyaraj and Nandita Swetha: This investigative thriller is focused, but also flat and flavourless

Posted on January 28, 2021




The film isn’t bad. But it’s overlong, and without a strong sense of style, we are left with just the functional plot points.

Spoilers ahead…

Pradeep Krishnamoorthy’s Kabadadaari is based on Hemanth Rao’s 2019 Kannada feature Kavaludaari, and in terms of plot and structure, it stays fairly close to the source material. Sibi Sathyaraj plays a traffic cop named Sakthi. He wants to do more. He wants to be a detective. And he gets his chance (unofficially) when three skeletons are discovered in the earth being dug up for Metro Rail construction work. From my review of Kavaludaari: “A small boy, presumably the child of one of the workers, is playing with a ball. The ball bounces into a trench, and the boy follows, stepping carefully on the loose sand on the walls of the trench. The crux of this moment is the discovery of the skeletons – it’s what sets the plot in motion, and you’d think this is where the big drama will play out.” The boy will see the bones. The soundtrack will seize the opportunity and go ballistic.

But no. “We cut to a scene where the boy’s mother steps out of her makeshift hut. She sees him playing with a skull. She screams. That’s when the soundtrack goes ballistic. The camera adds to the drama, going higher and higher, giving us a God’s-eye view of Bengaluru.” Change the name of the city, and the rest of the scene in the Tamil version could be described with a single word: ditto. I wish the rest of this investigative thriller had been ditto, too. I didn’t really expect the noir shadings of the Kannada film to be replicated in mainstream Tamil cinema. But that’s exactly why Kavaludaari worked: it’s the treatment, not the plot. It’s the mood. It’s the pace. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the presence of an actor like Ananth Nag, who breathed fresh life into a stock role (“the grizzled veteran cop lured out of retirement”) with his trademark dignity.

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil