Cast: Atharvaa Murali, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Radha Ravi, Radhika Sarathkumar, Vatsan Chakravarthi, Kanna Ravi, Prakash Raghavan, ‘Baby’ Divyadarshini
Director: Sri Ganesh
In a climactic sequence in Kuruthi Aattam, we get a lovely dialogue. “Indha ulagathula nallavanga, kettavanga illa. Irukaravanga, illadhavanga dhan” (This world has two types of people–not good people and bad, but people who have it all and those who don’t). This line, which makes a decent yet troubled man shatter his moral compass in the film, is also a line that reflects the pith of Sri Ganesh’s Kuruthi Aattam. The film is not just your average revenge drama that pits the good against the bad, but it tries hard – often to a fault– to give a complex portraiture of human nature.
As with any revenge rural action drama, there are your quintessential heroes and villains in the film. But they also come packed with layers. Sample Sakthi (Atharvaa Murali) and Muthu (Kanna Ravi) for size. Both these guys lock horns as soon as the film begins on a Kabbadi ground, and you expect a typical face-off. But that’s surprisingly not what you get. Muthu is the village mob boss and “akka” Gandhimathi’s son. But he chooses to leave his dangerous dynasty behind when he enters the ground out of respect for the sport. Gandhimathi (played by a superb Radikaa Sarathkumar), too is filled with surprises. Although one might not go as far as calling her a feminist Michael Corleone, she knows how to earn the respect of the men around her – with fear and a machete tucked into her sari.
So, when police officers tail her brother Durai for his son’s lewd sexual advances towards women, Gandhimadhi wields her gun on the cops. At the same time, she also disowns her brother and nephew and is left with disgust. Kuruthi Aattam is filled with such odd yet fascinating dichotomies. The film also feels like a spiritual successor to 8 Thottakkal, Sai Ganesh’s debut film, in many ways. The filmmaker tries to bring in meta-physical elements to an otherwise simple bare bones. So, when a person is imprisoned, the film isn’t quick to judge and box him like the four walls that trap him. It prods us to look at the circumstances instead. This is aptly fleshed out in a scene when Sakthi, who somewhat judges a man’s character for going to prison in the beginning, ends up going to prison himself.
Like its characters, the film, too, is strewn with surprises. And in the process, we get an unlikely but satisfying friendship angle and a romance with a tender backstory that unites two people because of shared traumas. There’s also a remarkable assassin in the film (played by Vatsan Chakravarthy), who evokes fear with just his eyes. But unlike 8 Thottakkal, our time with these rich characters and their journeys are tragically cut off and traded for melodramatic episodes involving that of a dying child. The young actor is up to the mark, but when the film’s heaviest dialogues are given to a child, it sounds quite bewildering. It is also here that Atharvaa tries to do the emotional heavy lifting in the film, and falls short.
The women in the film are sometimes striking, like Kayal, Sakthi’s sister, who is inexplicably selfless. But then there is also Vennila (Priya Bhavani Shankar), Sakthi’s romantic interest, who is often “reminded” to smile and solve her problems by just a motivational dialogue or two by the hero. The fight sequences, although smartly choreographed to the rhythm of a Kabbadi ground in creative spaces, end up in unnecessary portions in the film, and play out as confused placeholders in the screenplay. And just like that the film, which thereon progresses towards an oversimplified climax, loses the edge that it once faintly promised.