Chimbudeven’s new film, Kasada Tapara, consists of six short films. In a season of underwhelming anthologies, I admit I was a little terrified about going through another set of mini-narratives instead of one solid feature-length film. But Chimbudeven does something clever. This is a hyperlink movie — so, in effect, the six shorts do add up to one one feature-length film. Take the opening installment, a love story with Premji and Regina Cassandra. It could have stopped with the twist we get at the end. But the ripple effect of the actions in this love story are felt all the way to the last scenes of the film.
The second story has Shanthnu as the son of a gangster played by Sampath. Then we get Sundeep Kishan as a cop who’s asked to carry out an encounter operation. Next, there’s Harish Kalyan as a smooth operator with an eye on making lots of money in very little time. After these urban-ish stories — all of them are set in various localities of South Madras — we move to a village near Mahabalipuram, where Vijayalakshmi plays a mother who struggles to get medical treatment for her young son. She gets something few female actors get in Tamil cinema: a terrific action scene, which is all the more effective because of her desperation that makes her fight a bunch of men. Finally, Venkat Prabhu reappears. We saw him in a cameo in the Premji-Regina Cassandra episode. Now, he gets his own story.
So as a concept, Kasada Tapara is certainly interesting — and it’s nice to see well-meaning actions ending up creating problems. It’s a reminder that wanting to do good does not always mean you are going to end up doing good, and you may actually end up hurting someone. In a Tamil cinema scenario filled with inspirational messages, I found this (mild) cynicism quite refreshing. And the film is well-mounted, with six sets of A-list cinematographers, editors and composers.
But the writing — with loads of exposition and heavy with dialogue — strains to make some of these interlocked connections work. Some of the twists, like the one in Shanthnu and Harish Kalyan episodes, are barely convincing. Twists need a build-up to really work, and the short-film format doesn’t give enough room for us to care enough for the characters. As a result, we don’t care enough for their actions or the events around them. In the short form, the Venkat Prabhu episode is overly sentimental, but spread out over a longer time, it might have been more affecting. I kept wondering whether Kasada Tapara would have worked better had it not been split up into six, which is the number of vallinam letters of the Tamil alphabet that form the film’s title, with each letter being part of an episode title. As such, the film is an interesting little curio, and a reminder that Chimbudeven always keeps trying to do something different.