Readers Write In #373: Notes on ‘Kaadhalum Kadanthu Pogum’

Posted on June 21, 2021

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(by R Kailasham)

I might sound older than my age for saying this, but I am going to say this anyway: they don’t make movies like in the old days anymore. This is my canned excuse for not having watched many Tamil movies since 2015. There is a Hindi saying that goes: “Saahitya Samaaj ka Darpan Hai”, which translates to “Art mirrors the society”. Could it simply be that I did not like what the mirror had to reflect since 2015? You wouldn’t know, and probably don’t care. The rest of this piece is about a movie that released in 2016 and one which I watched only this weekend. You have been warned.

I was riveted by the direction, and the performance of the lead pair in Kaadhalum Kadanthu Pogum (2016). Sethupathi pulling off a masterclass in natural acting is not much of a surprise. Madonna Sebastian’s measured and mature performance in her Tamil debut was a pleasant jolt. I would have praised the storyline as well, but one must realize that it is the official adaptation of the Korean film, My Dear Desperado (2010). While I have not watched the original, Nalan Kumarasamy’s project feels authentic through and through.

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Our ambitious young heroine, Yazhini (Sebastian), escapes the confines of here Viluppuram home to get to the big city and make a career in the IT industry. Things do not go quite to plan, and she finds herself a neighbor to Kathir (Sethupathi), a henchman and a recently released convict who seems largely to be on the receiving end of thrashings. The first half of the movie meanders like a soft stream, culminating with Kathir thrashing the manager of an IT firm who made lecherous moves on Yazhini with the promise of getting her a job in his company. Kathir’s actions impress Yazhini, and they share a selfie on their way back from the police station in a share-auto.

The second half opens dramatically, with the lead pair getting drunk while watching “Kaadhalikka Naeramillai”. This isprobably a reason behind the statutory warning against liquor drinking and smoking at the beginning of the movie being read aloud by Madonna Sebastian. Scenes unfurl in more rapid succession in the second half, which also contains that best song of the movie in “Ka Ka Ka Po”. Santhosh Narayan’s score is impressive without being intrusive, much like the junior gangster named Murali whom Kathir takes under his wings.

My two favorite scenes in the movie are: Yazhini explaining to Kathir how members of the Inuit tribe (the movie uses a more readily recognizable but less politically correct term) spend cold nights, and the scene where Kathir wonders aloud how Yazhini appears to be tame as a cat in her behavior towards everyone but is aggressive in her dealings with him. Yazhini’s response to this faux allegation, picturized with a beautifully lit temple-pond in the background is poignant and warm.

After a few ominous twists, the film ends on a happy note. There is an understated element the underscores everything about the movie, except perhaps the chemistry between the lead actors which is crackling to say the least. They would go on to do more movies together; movies which I have not watched yet but hope to do soon.

Kaadhalum Kadanthu Pogum brightened up a rain-tinged Mumbai weekend for me. It could very well do the same for you.