Cast: Karthi, Sayyeshaa, Priya Bhavani Shankar
Karthi plays a farmer in Pandiraj’s Kadaikutty Singam (Last-born Lion), and the most interesting aspect of the film is that it portrays agriculture as a viable profession. The Karthi character, named Gunasingam (any resemblance to the fictional character named ‘Duraisingam’ is purely intentional), earns 1.5 lakh a month, and during a family ceremony, his gifts are chunky gold chains. This is a great, much-needed “message” — and one that’s delivered without preaching. It’s just slipped into conversation. Kadaikutty Singam springs a few surprises like this. Despite the village setting, which our movies usually depict as crucibles of “Tamil kalaacharam” (Tamil culture), the film says that men and women can be friends who simply hang out, and that the old-time tradition of giving birth to children until a boy is born makes no sense because a girl can do everything a boy does.
In an ideal world, that would mean a film like this could just as easily have been anchored by a heroine, but let’s not get carried away. What a film says and what it does are not quite the same thing. Take this heroine, for instance. She’s named Kannukkiniya, and played by Sayyeshaa. For a film that extols the produce of local soil, why transplant a heroine from Mumbai? Why relegate the Mayiladuthurai-born Priya Bhavani Shankar to a secondary role? (She was a news anchor on Puthiya Thalaimurai, so she also knows the language.) But then, even the hero’s profession is something of an afterthought. In a film like Dhool, the hero is a villager, and he faces a Sterlite-type polluting issue, and this is what takes him to the city, and this is what colours the action, the romance (because the heroine is from the same village).
Kadaikutty Singam lacks this focus — the writing is all over the place. Just as you think this is about farmers and their issues, we get a villain, out of nowhere — a politician who plays the caste game. But even that isn’t the focus. (It’s just a way to force in a few action blocks.) What we have, really, is a mega-serial-worthy mega-family melodrama. The cast includes Sathyaraj, Soori, Bhanupriya, Viji Chandrasekhar, Marimuthu, Ponvannan and Mounika — and all of them, except Soori, get to replay a version of the plot of Vaazhkai (1984), where the ungrateful offspring are pitted against the one good son. You may be reminded of other older films, too — say, the animal-drawn cart overtaking the bus from Naya Daur (1957), or the rekla race from Uzhavan Magan (1987). (What does it say about a film when an eighties’ production showcased the sport with more size and sweep?)
Even the dialogues take you back to the eighties. Sample: Soththa saethu vekkardhu mattum saemippu illa. Sondhatha saethu vekkardhum saemippu dhaan. (Trust me, you’re better off without the translation.) And how does the movie end? With a “Subam.” Kadaikutty Singam wants to be little more than a time machine that transports you to a certain kind of masala movie-cum-melodrama, but are people interested in spending money on watching an update of films already available on TV and YouTube? Our actors trot out these films with the logic that it strengthens their B/C-centre base, but it may be interesting to research what those audiences really want. Has internet penetration and 24×7 television changed their movie-viewing tastes? Or are they still the same audiences — with the same “mindset”? The box-office performance of Kadaikutty Singam is going to prove interesting for these very reasons.