Helmed by debut director Kaali Rangasamy, Oru Kuppai Kathai features dance master Dinesh and Manisha Yadav in the lead roles. The story takes off from the slums of Chennai.
The plot – Kumar (Dinesh) works at the Chennai City Corporation’s garbage disposal unit. He leads a happy life at the slum, with his mother and friends, and is passionate about his work. After many failed attempts, he finally marries Poongodi after an alliance is arranged between the two. Poongodi doesn’t know what Kumar’s job entails. It is only after she moves to Chennai and lives with him for three months that she finds out what he does. She is infuriated and their marriage begins to falter. The director introduces an extra-marital affair in the story and the drama takes a dark turn.
- Manisha Yadav has shown a lot of courage and maturity by accepting a role with such strong grey shades. Any other commercial heroine would’ve thought twice before taking on this part, which falls on the wrong side of the morality scale. Manisha does complete justice to her character, comfortably conveying disgust, vulnerability and guilt.
- Dinesh has chosen an ideal role to make his acting debut. He underplays the character and looks the part convincingly, thanks to his build and body language.
- DoP Mahesh Muthuswamy’s cinematography feels ‘real’. He takes us right into the heart of the slums. Some of the scenes will make you squirm, owing to their unsettling visuals.
- The director has to be appreciated for going against the grain by setting his story in a slum and making his protagonist a garbage picker. Some of his dialogues are sharp and worthy of applause.
- Joshua Sridhar (of Kaadhal and Kalloori fame) is back with his trademark sound. Numbers like ‘Vaa Machi Vaada Machi’ and ‘Vilagaadhe Enadhuyirae’ are enjoyable, despite their familiarity. Deepan Chakravarthy takes care of the background score and is impressive, particularly in the sequence in which Poongodi first accompanies her husband to his locality after marriage.
- In-form comedian Yogi Babu scores in the limited scenes that he gets. Among the other supporting characters, George (Poongodi’s father), Aadhira (Kumar’s mother) and Kasthuri Paati (an old, alcoholic slum-dweller) stand out.
- The director goes overboard in the second half while portraying the lifestyle and mindset of the modern urban youth. These scenes are far removed from the natural treatment of the first half. The dialogues for this segment and the way they are delivered are unintentionally funny.
- The melodrama peaks towards the end; the melancholic violin-heavy background score makes it even heavier. Some typical cinematic clichés related to gender (the forgiving, sacrificing husband and the repentant wife) could’ve also been avoided.
- Sujo Mathew (playing Arjun, the dashing neighbour who lures the gullible Poongodi away from Kumar) and the actor playing his friend will remind you of the ‘Peter boys’ in Selvaraghavan’s earlier films like Kadhal Konden, 7G and Pudhupettai. The casting for both these key roles could’ve been better.
Final word: As long as the film is set in the slums, it’s quite fascinating, thanks to the cinematography and the characters. The way the story takes a dark turn has also been narrated in a gripping manner. Had the director kept the second half in check, the end result would’ve been even more impactful.