In what has been a never-ending barrage of anthologies, we get one more that tries to compress multiple stories into a feature-film format. But instead of an anthology, makers here are comfortable calling it hyperlink cinema and this shift in format makes the film a tad more cohesive. Chimbudevan has written and directed all six stories, although we get multiple cinematographers, editors, actors and music directors working on each story. What this does is keep the unifying tissue strong, even if these films look, sound and feel different. Another unifying element is how it chooses different parts of South Madras to place these stories. So we get Mylapore, OMR, ECR and Semmencherry, and characters belonging to all classes and religions to give us the feeling we’re witnessing a microcosm of the world, all within a 30-km radius.
But it is only the first film, starring Premgi and Regina, that belongs in what we’ve come to associate as Chimbudevan’s fantasy universe. Even the director’s signature comedy scenes are limited to the first portion with the remaining five films tackling genres and situations the Pulikesi director has seldom handled before. So apart from a fairly engaging love story, we also get a gangster drama, a critique of capital punishment, an overtly sentimental take on the pharmaceutical business and a lot of other things.
But it’s hard to take Kasada Tabara seriously after a point. More than a solid film, it merely feels like a glorified script reading of a fascinating script. The making, stuck somewhere in the late 90’s, has nothing to offer and even the performances are just about functional. In portions like the gangster drama (starring Sampath) and the police story (featuring Sudeep Kishan), you feel like Chimbudevan is out of his element and the overall production feels tacky and amateurish.
Which essentially means that it’s only the writing and the gimmicks of the format that keeps things going. Instead of switching off entirely when a story fails to connect, there’s still a reasonable amount of intrigue to see how it integrates with the bigger picture. Chimbudevan does cool things with the format, especially with the way he plays with timelines. So instead of simply sticking to a linear format, we keep travelling back and forth to reveal little secrets about an earlier character or an earlier film that changes the way we look at the whole film.
And that’s an entertaining exercise on its own because you start to shut off the visuals and imagine the same screenplay being made by a cooler, hipper director. It also makes you wonder how fun it would have been to simply listen to Chimbudevan narrate this script rather than having to watch the film he ends up making with it. Even so, there’s a set of twists that keep matters unpredictable, to eventually make Kasada Tabara a film that holds up better as a flashy narrative exercise rather than a film with emotions or life.