Kuthiraivaal, directed by Manoj Jahson and Shyam Sunder: A surreal experience about the multiple selves we inhabit, with Kalaiyarasan and Anjali Patil

Posted on March 4, 2021


kuthirai vaal


This Pa Ranjith production, being screened at the Berlin Critics’ Week, is too literal. It’s also a fascinating attempt to put psychoanalytic theory on film.

Spoilers ahead…

In Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a man wakes up to find that he’s transformed into a giant bug. There are echoes of this classic story in Kuthiraivaal, a Pa Ranjith production directed by Manoj Jahson and Shyam Sunder. Here, too, a man wakes up to find that he’s transformed: he’s still human, fortunately, but now he has a horse’s tail. Like Kafka’s protagonist, our hero (Kalaiyarasan) leads a mindless, drone-like existence, which we see in his job at a bank. So what does the transformation indicate? Alienation from humankind? Has he become the proverbial beast of burden? Or is it something more… sexual? The tail, after all, does resemble the cascading hair of a woman. Kalaiyarasan gives an intensely physical performance. Every time the tail twitches, he flinches as though electrocuted. Something is prodding him in some strange direction, and he needs to know what. And he needs to know why.

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