Suriya and Sayyeshaa in KV Anand's Kaappaan

I‘ve decided to become a director. Here’s the idea. The protagonist is a videogame designer in Mumbai — maybe I’ll cast someone like Dulquer Salmaan, given that he’s now in The Zoya Factor and a pan-Indian star. So, this guy, let’s call him Aadhi, falls for a free-spirited woman, a budding architect named Tara. Neither of them believes in marriage, so they decide to just live together. But before that, one romantic evening, Aadhi follows Tara to her hostel room, and there’s a great AR Rahman song playing, and they are in the mood for lovemaking, and she notices something wriggling in Aadhi’s pants… No, not that, you perverts. He’s got earthworms in his pockets. For, he’s a part-time organic farmer, too. Otherwise, how will he deliver lectures about organic farming, and if he doesn’t, how will this be a “mass” movie?

Okay, kanmani-s. So, I’m only half-joking about making a movie, but I am not joking at all about how today’s filmmakers and stars see a “mass” movie. So, in KV Anand’s Kaappaan, Suriya plays Kathiravan, a member of the Special Protection Group (SPG), assigned to protect the Prime Minister (Mohanlal). But when we see Kathiravan first, he’s an… organic farmer. He’s using earthworms to do whatever organic farmers do with earthworms. He’s even built special latrines so that human shit can be converted into manure. (Too bad, he couldn’t do anything similar with this shitty script.) No, I’m not against movies about farming. I’m just saying, if you care so much about farmers, make the whole goddamned movie about them and their issues. Don’t reduce them to socially-conscious wallpaper in an action-entertainer that also has lectures about Pakistan and Kashmir and the sacrifices endured by the SPG.

Suriya in KV Anand's Kaappaan
Suriya in KV Anand’s Kaappaan

Why do our filmmakers find it so difficult to make a basic, entertaining movie? Why do they (and our stars) want to give lectures and messages in the middle of action movies? Do James Bond or Jason Bourne stop in the middle of an adventure and launch into long speeches about ISIS and #MeToo and gun violence in the US? Of course, you’ll tell me that James Bond or Jason Bourne do not have to consider the A, B and C centres — but really, all centres are alike. For a few out-of-the-box films such as Super Deluxe and Aadai, sure — the reach is restricted. But, when it comes to something like Kaappaan, which just wants to entertain, surely we all (A, B or C) just want to be engrossed in the proceedings for a couple of hours.

Kaappaan goes on for far more than two hours — 45 minutes more, in fact. But, it’s all flab. Do we really need a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge-like scene where Anjali (Sayyeshaa) thinks she may have had sex with Kathiravan, after she attacked him with a fruit knife and he accidentally tore her clothes and later, left a condom cover with this note: “Thanks for a memorable night”? What about the scene where the re-enactment of how a couple fell in love ends with a bottle of broken wine and an exploding cat? Or, even the scene where the Prime Minister of India crashes Anjali’s birthday party in a Sardar costume, because, of course, no one will ever recognise you once you place a turban on your head! There’s something about an evil industrialist who unleashes locusts to obtain Thorium, but I’ll spare you.

Kaappaan wants to be everything to everyone, and that’s not a problem, but the writing is so clumsy that you don’t feel for anyone and you don’t care about anything. I mean, in the first half, they try to make us think the Suriya character may be a bad guy. Really? At least, Anjali holds some intrigue, but she is so randomly dispersed through the screenplay that you’re never sure if she’s even a love interest. After a masturbation joke, Mohanlal says Kathiravan and Anjali are in love and must get married, or else, he will “pollinate” them. Or, something. Even the locker-room talk (there’s a bit about a big-bosomed “aunty”) is flaccid — like the acting, like the staging, like the action. Compare the bomb-going-off scene here to the one in Petta, and you’ll see how a real filmmaker can manufacture real drama out of these same ingredients.

In earlier outings, KV Anand was saved by the twisty plotting — but even that aspect is a disappointment. There’s one potentially interesting flashback, set in Kashmir. It’s well-shot, well-staged, it’s everything the rest of the film isn’t. And what does KV Anand do? Instead of letting the stretch play out on its own and give us a sense of how the villain came to be, he dummy-fies it, layering it with Kathiravan’s narration. This flashback could have resulted in as powerful an enmity as the one in Skyfall — a betrayal of brothers — but the villain, here, is introduced way too early and he’s a nothing. Kathiravan could have stepped down from the screen and pointed to me and announced that I was the villain, and I don’t think the audience would have batted an eyelid. This is one of those screenplays where the end of each page didn’t say PTO but WTF.

Also read: Vishal Menon’s First Day, First Impression of Kaappaan.

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