I love this film! I’ve watched it twice in theatres already. The first time round, as I stepped out, with rain drops spattering across the screen to Santhosh Narayan’s music, it was raining outside too. At that moment, I felt the same connect with the director that Yazhini feels with Kathir during the climactic rain shower.
I’ve watched Nalan Kumarasamy’s films avidly since his Oru Padam Edukkanum days. And I’m truly happy that he has shifted from comedy to something more nuanced and emotional in KaKaPo.
I love the way Vijay Sethupathi’s character Kathir is built up in this film. We don’t get any flashbacks. First up, we learn he’s been to jail for 5 years. Then we learn it was actually for the other guy’s crime. The supermarket incident and the way he says not to let kids see prison at a young age, hints at how his childhood might have been. Perhaps he was chucked out of some place too as a child? We hear a line from someone saying Kathir watches a lot of Discovery channel – perhaps a sign that he has too much time at hand to while away? Even the shot in which Kathir dips a banana into a cup of soft drink, although funny, is a stark reminder of his economic condition. When you don’t have enough money, then you got to come up with creative combinations of what you have to give your tongue some variety. This is a deft and subtle characterization that I find attractive.
And it shows the director’s attention to detail that the banana dipped into the soft drink is part of the first look poster above! And there are several such touches throughout the film. Touches that make you giggle or smile. Yazhini’s Youtube apology video is titled “Mudiyala appa!” The video title appears just an instant before it vanishes. Yazhini’s family conversation at night in the railway station has a poster of Vivekananda in the backdrop. (And this too is a deft characterization of her father. Why does Yazhini mention Vivekananda of all people? Her father must be the one who’s inspired by him, and hence she tries to convince him by bringing up Vivekananda’s name in the video. This is a hint for a later portion in the temple, where we’re shown that her father is deeply involved in spirituality.) In the restaurant scene, with the HR guy and Yazhini, there’s the video of a romantic song playing in a TV in the background, in which hero and heroine are seated in the front seats of a car. The next shot is that of the HR guy and Yazhini in a car’s front seats and he calls her to a room. The guy with a cheating wife, who first visits Kathir says he eats organic food and Kathir when asked what he’d like to eat at Yazhini’s place, in his nervousness replies “Organic food”. The bar in which Kathir gets beaten up has a sign that says “A/C Bar” but has the word “A/C” struck out in red. The same bar sells “poli sarakku”. When Kathir first meets his sidekick Murali (another short film actor, who played a similar role in a film titled Burning Shadow), he says he must have seen him somewhere. In the end, we get to know that Murali is about to become like Kathir – a sacrificial lamb. Now, doesn’t the same line sound philosophical? 🙂
And that’s why I love this film and Nalan. The film is comical, philosophical, poetic and realistic at the same time.
And Vijay Sethupathi, what an actor! He’s capable of doing a lot of subtle things. Pay attention to the selfie that Yazhini takes while in the share auto. The look he has on his face, suggesting a mixture of anxiety (about how she’s going to react to him beating up the HR guy) and bewilderment. And the conversation he has with Murali as both of them walk under the flyover. He takes a leak before he comes back and asks Murali to leave the gang forever. It’s almost as if he’s been contemplating this all the while, but somehow while taking the leak, he decided that he has to have this conversation with Murali. Subtle acting and staging.
The film’s best part is that it’s not about love at all. At least love in the usual sense of Tamil cinema. As the title suggests, love passes by Kathir and Yazhini. They end up being two companions, at a point in their lives when both of them are equally lost. She is asked to dance in her interviews, he is asked to stick posters. He spent 5 years in prison, she spent years studying engineering. Both have some hopes and ambitions for their future. They are like the two shadows that are shown a couple of times as they walk down the road. They end up travelling together, during a phase when the sun beats down upon them. And both are in need of umbrellas when it rains!
The rain and music go hand in hand in this film. The songs are woven so tightly into the narrative that after watching the movie, when I listened to the songs separately I began wondering if “Akkam pakkam paar” was present in the film at all. (In fact, this song elevates the film to another level by drawing your attention to strangers you may find in a teeming city, who’ll drive away your loneliness.) When I watched it a second time, I noticed this song was indeed present in the film. Here’s something for you to watch and learn Mr.Mysskin. Songs need not stop your narration always.
The other great thing is in typical Nalan style, several Tamil cinema tropes are snatched out, washed and hung to dry on a clothesline. The “hero” doesn’t help the heroine carry her luggage. The “hero” asks for his money back after paying for the food. The “heroine” doesn’t fall in love and start blushing after one night together. The “hero” doesn’t sacrifice his life just so that the “heroine” may live happily ever after. None of this bullshit. It’s like you walk into a hotel and a waiter recites the entire restaurant menu in a single breath, including a variety of items like full meals, poori kezhangu and parotta. But, you simply click your tongue in disapproval and order, “One glass water please”. That’s exactly what Nalan does.
The only place I could get a Korean feel in this film was when Kathir is half-bathed in red paint as he fights Samuthirakani. There’s something in that moment that’s extremely fresh to Tamil cinema. It’s definitely saying something but you’ve got to rack your own brains to figure it out. In Kathir’s own words, “Adha neenga dhaan sollanum” I’m all the more curious to see My Dear Desperado, if only to verify if this red paint was present in the original too.
What does the climax mean? I found several people conjecturing that Kathir and Yazhini would go on to have a relationship or marry. I find that ridiculous! The whole point of Yazhini’s dream was that she wanted Kathir to see how successful she had become. The moment that the two share at the petrol bunk and the smiles they exchange are simply a joy in meeting each other again and the joy of seeing each other doing what they wanted in life. And just like the rain that surrounds them yet again to share their joy, we shower in their joy too as we head out of the theatres. That’s it! Nothing more and nothing less!