– I had watched a short film trailer long time back, and had been eager to watch the actual film. Never found it online but the name of the maker did stick in my mind. Manikandan. Especially since Vijay Sethupathi mentioned him often in interviews as one of his mentors.
– The moment I saw the director’s name in Kaakkamuttai’s trailer, I somehow knew it had to be this fellow. And it is.
– Kaakkamuttai is a story of two kids in Chennai, living in a house that has no specific address, who’re tempted to taste a pizza. Simple.
– And everyone’s after money. In the belief, that it would bring them happiness. Everyone tries to manipulate to their advantage, the situations they find themselves in. Everyone tries to exert their power on the person below them in the “power pyramid”.
– In a recent Neeya Naana episode on networking, writer Abhilash mentioned the concept of “power currency”. How power can be viewed as points. The leader at the top, say, has 100 points. His sub-ordinates or those who directly rub shoulders with him get 50. That fellow’s assistant gets 25. And thus power gets transmitted down society’s hierarchy, from say a chief minister to a simple roadside shopkeeper. Likewise, in Kaakkamuttai there is a power pyramid. The local MLA, whose support the pizza outlet owner requires, who has a manager, who shouts at the security, who shouts at Periya kakka muttai, who commands Chinna Kaakka Muttai.
– There are so many beautiful moments in the film. As the director mentioned in an interview, there will be at least one moment that will remind you of your childhood, no matter where and how you grew up.
– The subtle symbolism. The tree that is felled to make way for the pizza joint. The fact that these kids are eggs of crows, not hens. Even the titles! The alphabets are uneven, irregular. Like the inequality in the city. Like the houses in the slums. Sticking out, yet forming a whole.
– The film’s biggest success is that it makes the mall-visiting public, seated in the comfort of the cushioned sofas, laugh at themselves and the society that they’re a part of. I don’t think I can ever enter a pizza joint, without thinking about this film once (not that I’d want to enter one anyway).
– And it’s not just Periya kaakka muttai, who gets slapped. Each character in the film gets a slap at some point. The grandmother when Periya kaakka muttai accuses her of sitting simply at home. Pazha rasam when he gets fired. The small-time crook when he gets beaten up by the pizza outlet people. The manager when he’s unable to find the kids. The pizza shop owner’s friend, when he’s asked to stay outside the room. The pizza owner when the mobile clip is leaked to press. Slaps are constantly exchanged between people in power and the powerless.
– The people with money were also not portrayed in an arrogant manner. The kids do have a friend, who lives in an apartment, who offers them a piece of pizza. Two other kids, who’ve just finished shopping for clothes, strike a business deal with the kaakka muttais. They do not show a “Yuck! Who’ll talk to these slum kids?” attitude. This stuff will definitely be new to many Tamil filmmakers. I hope it breaks some of their slumbers and gets them thinking. Hope this film acts as a slap on the face for them.
– The only teeny weeny downside for me was the background score and songs. In a couple of spots, I sensed that there was a song playing. In some spots, I felt the background score prevented me from actually laughing. When the end credits rolled, I knew the answer why. G.V.Prakash Kumar. I think Manikandan has done a great job in ensuring GV didn’t spoil this film. So that way at least, it’s good. But, I cannot help but wonder how it would’ve turned out had Santhosh Narayanan handled this. In fact, I think it’s GV’s music that keeps suggesting that the film is cute and meant for kids. Probably, that’s what gave the illusion to the National Award jury.
– This is definitely not just a kids film. There’s a lot in the film for kids and adults. In the theatre I watched there was applause at the end, as the credits rolled. One of the kids in the theatre, asked his dad during the film, “Appa yen pa avangala pizza kadaikku ulla vida maatraanga?” Although the dad said “Cchhhh, padattha paaru.” with irritation for not having an answer, the fact that the film raises that question, within each individual watching it, is fabulous!
– The film has a universal appeal. You’ll love it even if you don’t understand Tamil, simply with subtitles. Similar to Children of Heaven or Pather Panchali. In fact, I’d say this is more entertaining. More enjoyable. More feel-good. The kids could have been caught and beaten up until their blood mingles with the Kuam river. The mother could have been “used” by the MLA for personal pleasure or at least commented upon by his sidekick. The father could have then escaped from prison to take revenge on the MLA (He’ll of course escape from jail after a gory fistfight with the jailor, which could get nominated for best stunt in Vijay awards). Each of these scenarios, has potential directors in Tamil cinema who would have handled it quite well, if the storyline had stooped to any of those directions. But, it stays erect! It has a spine.
Kaakkamuttai. A must-watch. And a film I’d recommend with pride to any non-Thamizhan.