Kadaikutty Singam (2018)

 

Kadaikutty Singam

Pandiraj’s latest film is a village-based family drama with an extended cast and surfeit of relationships that ends up feeling more like an over-stretched soap opera. The story focuses on the only son of Ranasingam (Sathyaraj) but it’s his various sisters, their husbands and Ranasingam’s two wives that make the most impact in the rather wandering screenplay. The film includes a number of social messages and the story tends to disappear under the requirements to include the benefits of a career in farming and a myriad of moral issues associated with ‘traditional’ village life. However, Karthik does a good job with his role, the support cast are excellent and the film is full of colour and light, even if it does have an overly melodramatic finale.

The film starts with the story of Ranasingam and his quest for a son. His first wife Vanamadevi (Viji Chandrasekhar) has four daughters which leads to Ranagingham casting his eye about for a second wife. He ends up marrying Vanamadevi’s sister, Panchamadevi (Bhanupriya) who promptly also has a daughter, but before Ranasingam can marry for a third time, Vanamadevi falls pregnant again, and this time the baby is a boy. By the time Gunasingam (Karthi) has grown up, his five sisters have all married and two have grown up daughters of their own. The expectation is that Gunasingam will marry one of his two nieces, but when he sees Kannukiniyal aka Iniya (Sayyeshaa) he is immediately smitten, making a family marriage seem unlikely. Luckily for Gunasingam, Iniya reciprocates his feelings and the two happily embark on a relationship. However, there are a few obstacles to overcome, such as Iniya’s politician uncle Kodiyarasu (Shatru) and Gunasingam’s sisters who all vociferously object to the match.

What works well here are the relationships between Gunasingam and his sisters, and between his sisters and their various husbands. Mounika, Yuvarani, Indhumathi, Deepa and Jeevitha play the five sisters who all have distinctly different personalities, and are all convinced that they know what is best for their younger brother – that’s marriage to either Aandal (Arthana Binu) or Poompozhil (Priya Bhavani Shankar) and a life spent running the family farm. Gunasingam has no problem with the latter half of that plan as he’s proud to be a farmer, and makes a point of announcing his monthly salary (1.5 lakhs) and giving expensive gifts to his family. However, Gunasingam only thinks of his nieces as ‘family’ and he’s determined to marry ‘soda-girl’ Iniya, so-called because she runs a soda business. These parts of the story are well nuanced and I like that Iniya has a successful life by herself and isn’t just on the look-out for a husband to take the place of her Uncle Kodiyarasu. Apparently Iniya’s family follows the same uncle/niece marriage idea, but that’s mainly a method for Kodiyarasu to irritate Gunasingam. Kodiyarasu is a politician, but he’s firm on the idea of caste and involved in an honour killing which leads Gunasingam to report him to the police. The feud between the two men seems mainly to be an excuse to include the message that casteism is bad, and of course, the obligatory masala fight scenes.

While the arguments with Kodiyarasu go on in the background, Gunasingam attempts to deal with his sisters who try everything in their power to break his relationship with Iniya. Being family, they know exactly where to attack for the most impact, and eventually the argument leads to a schism in the family. Added to the rift between the sisters, Panchamadevi leaves Ranasingam, but unfortunately, despite being potentially the most interesting thread in the drama, this gets only brief screen time and isn’t fully developed, presumably because there is so much else going on at the same time. Much of the writing here is excellent, and it’s a shame that the rather more predictable ‘villain’ thread keeps intruding into the more compelling family drama.

The romance between Iniya and Gunasingam mainly takes place during a song, which is probably enough time given that it’s the fall-out from their relationship that is more interesting. Although Sayyeshaa looks somewhat out-of-place in a Tamil village drama, she is otherwise fine in the role. Her Iniya has plenty of charm and personality despite limited time on-screen, and her romance with Karthik is plausible. Karthik too is good as a confident and dedicated farmer who buckles under pressure from his family. He’s energetic in the fight scenes and dance numbers, and his various speeches about how wonderful it is to be a farmer aren’t as pompous and patronising as expected. He also has good rapport with the various members of his family and gets his inner conflict across well. His best relationship is with his nephew (who is roughly the same age) Sivagamiyin Selvan (Soori), which is used to add light-hearted comedy that’s mostly relevant to the story. Soori is actually very good here and he handles the role intelligently which helps add more depth to Karthik’s character.

I enjoyed the songs from D. Imman which are catchy enough in the cinema, although not particularly memorable. The film looks good too, and cinematographer Velraj captures both the colours of the countryside and the warmth of the community. A word too about the subtitles from Rekhs and team, which are easy to read and in proper grammatical English – yay! Rekhs has also subtitled any significant written signs which is a delight and really does help with understanding the story.

Overall Kadaikutty Singam has too much going on to be truly successful. It’s also let down by an overly dramatic finale that fizzles just when it should be starting to heat up. However, the family relationships are well done and I love the realistic interactions between the sisters and their husbands. There are a few too many moral messages too, although it’s hard to complain given that they fall into the – ‘girls can do anything’ and ‘caste isn’t a barrier to relationships’ baskets that still need more promotion in cinema. It’s also good to see farming portrayed in a more positive light with a nod to the importance of the people who feed the nation. Worth a one-time watch for Karthik, Soori, the excellent support cast and the well-written family relationships.

Advertisements

Kaddipudi

Kaddipudi

Kaddipudi is a journey into the underworld of Bangalore as the film follows the exploits of Anand, aka Kaddipudi (Shiva Rajkumar) as he tries to leave the world of rowdyism behind. As expected there are corrupt cops and dodgy politicians, but the gangsters too have few redeeming features, being violent and intent on committing the vilest of crimes whenever possible. Against this backdrop, Kaddipudi stands out as a lone honest man, along with his friend Jinke (Rangayana Raghu) and a few of the police officers. It’s an interesting film that isn’t quite as successful as Kendasampige but still entertains thanks to good performances and a reasonably well-developed story.

ACP Satyamurthy (Anant Nag) narrates the story of Kaddipudi’s early life to new police officer Tejasu who is on a mission to clean up the city and remove its gangster element. Satyamurthy explains that it’s not the gangsters who are the problem, but rather the rapists and thieves that he wants to get off the streets. It turns out that Kaddipudi is the one helping Satyamurthy in his endeavours and the rest of the first half explains the reasons.

The story starts with political rivalry between Kaddipudi’s local candidate Renukaji (Renuka Prasad) and Shankarappa (Sharath Lohitashwa). Shankarappa arranges for an accident in an attempt to kill Renukaji but instead manages to paralyse the popular politician and alienate his son Gaali (Rajesh Nataranga) and Gaali’s friend Kaddipudi. Incensed by Galli and Kaddipudi’s threats, Shankarappa pays one of their friends to kill Gaali, but this too fails as Kaddipudi saves his friend’s life. However, this sparks off rivalry between Manja’s family and Kaddipudi which draws him further into violence. Since he turns out to be quite good at it, Kaddipudi gains a reputation as a gangster, but when a friend’s sister is attacked and more people die, he vows to give up his life of violence to avoid drawing his friends into the crossfire.

This first part of the film is rather confusing as various people pop up and are killed without there being any real explanation of who they are. However, once the relationships start to become clear (and many of the cast have already been killed off) it becomes easier to follow as it boils down more simply to Shankarappa and Manja against Renukaji, Gaali and Kaddipudi.

ACP Satyamurthy acts as a mentor to Kaddipudi who seems to be doing quite well as a police informer and general helper to Renukaji. He turns in some of his own men who have been guilty of raping and murdering women in the area, but although this is appreciated by the police it earns him yet more enemies. Just when it looks as if Kaddipudi will manage to turn his life around, Shankarappa arranges for Satyamurthy to be transferred and his own man, ACP Vijaya Prasad (Avinash) to be installed in his place with instructions to get rid of Kaddipudi.

The second half moves into more familiar territory as Kaddipudi has to deal with corrupt cops as well as his gangster rivals and the machinations of Shankarappa. To break up the violence there is a love story with Uma (Radhika Pandit) and some comedy added by Jinke which is generally successful. Kaddipudi also adds to his do-gooder persona by saving a brothel worker, although this part of the story seems to be rather hurriedly tacked on and doesn’t gel with the rest of the screenplay. What does work better is the romance, and Soori allows Uma to have a good back story and believable personality. Perhaps rather less credible is her election as a politician, but it’s good to see a female character, who starts off with a relatively minor role, develop throughout the film to become one of the major characters by the end.

Jinke too has more to offer than just Kaddipudi’s comical friend, while Gaali is interestingly written as a selfish and demanding character who uses Kaddipudi in spite of their good friendship. I’m assuming that the actor playing this role is the same Rajesh Nataranga who wrote the screenplay along with Soori, and it’s interesting that he gave himself a more ambivalent role, which he does an excellent job in portraying too.

The story starts off rather slowly and isn’t helped by Shiva Rajkumar looking rather too old and tired for the role of an upstart young gangster. However, his performance is first class and time moves on and Kaddipudi becomes more jaded with the gangster life, Shiva’s appearance suits the character more. He does an excellent job throughout of portraying Kaddipudi’s conflicting desires; on the one hand he wants to settle down and live a normal life, but on the other, he can’t bear to see injustice and he is quick to respond to defend his friends and adopted family of Gaali and Renukaji.

Also good are Renuka Prasad, Anant Nag and Sharath Lohitashwa, but I really enjoyed watching Radhika Pandit as Uma. The growth of her character was very well written and her development of Uma from scared young girl to confident wife and politician excellent, making Uma a realistic persona who could fall for a reformed gangster and develop the confidence to enter politics. After all she was an actor, and what is a politician if not a performer? Radhika does a fantastic job of bringing her character to life and making her much more than the romantic interest for the hero.

There is a lot of violence in this film, and it’s of the bloody and realistic sort rather than theatrical herocentric acrobatics. There is violence against women and plenty of police brutality, but Soori keeps the film moving, ensuring that there is a reason for all the fight scenes and drives home the precariousness of life as a rowdy in the underworld. Soori has crafted a thought-provoking story that has a lot to offer once you get past the rather slow start and a few side-plots that don’t lead anywhere. Not one for the fainthearted but definitely worth a watch if you enjoy gritty gangster films and don’t mind the bloodshed. 3 ½ stars.

Kendasampige (Part II Ginimari Case)

Kendasampige

Soori’s 2015 release is an excellent thriller that skilfully blends a romance, a police investigation and a road trip into a gripping story. Newcomers Vikky Varun and Manvitha Harish are excellent as the young couple on the run from the law, but everyone in this fast-paced crime drama performs perfectly, aided by the clever screenplay and superb cinematography. It’s clever, well-written and has realistic characters that generally behave as expected – all points that ensure this is a film I thoroughly enjoyed.

The story is written by Surendranath and there are three distinct threads with a couple of side incidents that together make up the plot of Kendasampige. This film is called part 2, although Kendasampige is complete in its own right, but there are a number of hints throughout that it is part of a much greater whole. If Part 1 (which is yet to release) and the subsequent Part 3 are anywhere near as good, then this promises to be an excellent trilogy indeed.

The first thread deals with a group of corrupt cops, Narayanaswamy, Chandrasekhar, Govindaraju and their boss DCP Suryakanth (Prakash Belawadi). The film begins with three of them stashing money they have stolen from a drug raid in a well, although one of them appears unhappy with the proposed split of their ill-gotten gains. While these cold-hearted and mercenary police officers are important to the main story, this is where I presume the prequel will clear up some loose ends since Kendasampige starts after the group have stolen the drug money and DCP Suryakanth has executed the gang members involved. Soori paints a bleak picture of corruption in the police force with just a few short snippets of conversation and this perfectly sets the background for the rest of the story to unfold.

The second thread follows the romance between rich girl Gowri (Manvitha Harish) and working class Ravi (Vikky Varun) who are very much in love despite their social differences and the objection of Gowri’s stylish mother Shakuntala (Chandrika). One of the corrupt police officers, DCP Suryakanth, happens to be in a relationship with Shakuntala, so naturally she turns to him to solve her problem with Gowri’s unwelcome suitor. Suryakanth fakes a drug dealing case on Ravi but on the way from the court to jail, Ravi somehow manages to escape, shooting the police driver in the process. With the police on his tail, Ravi naturally turns to Gowri for help, asking for money in his attempt to escape. However, Gowri is determined to support her man despite his claim to have shot a police officer, and decides to run away with him to ensure they can stay together.

Ravi’s shooting of a police officer starts the third thread – a murder investigation by ACP Purandar (Rajesh Nataranga). Purandar is in charge of the inquiry into Officer Govindaraju’s apparent death but as he delves deeper into the case he realises that all is not as it seems. His first task is to find Ravi but as he is starting his search, Shakuntala discovers that Gowri has run away with Ravi and pleads with DCP Suryakanth to get her daughter back. Ravi and Gowri have to evade ACP Purander and DCP Suryakanth’s two corrupt cops Narayanaswamy and Chandrasekhar if they are to have any chance of a life together. Adding to the tension, the two groups searching have very different plans for the couple and it’s a race to see who will get to them first.

The screenplay by Soori and Rajesh Nataranga (presumably the same Rajesh who plays ACP Purandar) weaves these different threads together perfectly and step by step the whole story is gradually revealed. As with any good crime drama, major events only become clear to the audience once the police investigation reveals the truth, while each action causes a reaction that allows the story to move forward. The different relationships between characters are developed naturally and although the back story for most is brief, there is enough to ensure they appear to act realistically as the plot unfolds. ACP Purander is shown discussing the case with his wife, who also appears to work for the police force and this gives more depth and understanding to his character while providing a good contrast to the more selfish DCP Suryakanth, who is having an affair with Shakuntala but lying to her about her daughter.

The chase is thrilling, although there are no car chases or scenes of Gowri and Ravi running through the streets, at least not until right near the end. Throughout there is a sense of suspense which increases as the net closes in on the young couple and the final outcome becomes ever more uncertain. Soori adds in a few twists which help increase the tension while Satya Hegde’s use of the camera to contrast the light and space evoked by overhead drone shots of each city with the confining spaces inhabited by Gowri and Ravi as they attempt to hide adds further anxiety.

The performances too are all outstanding, particularly by the newcomers Vikky (aka Santhosh) and Manvitha although Rajesh Nataranga is also excellent. Vikky ensures Ravi appears as a typical working class guy who rarely thinks outside of his own small world. His panic and confusion as he is arrested and charged are realistic and his descent into stunned acceptance is also well portrayed. Vikky does an excellent job of portraying a man so far out of his depth that just keeping his head above water is the most he can manage. His life has taught him that he has to endure, and that is what he does, completely allowing someone else to take charge of his life when he is no longer able to cope. Vikky is to be commended on allowing his character to fully display his nervousness and fear, rather than simply devolving to standard hero behaviour when faced with a dilemma and he really is fantastic in the role.

Manvitha is also superb as the confident and more worldly Gowri who is able to deal with every problem and takes control of each situation. Gowri is made of sterner stuff than Ravi and it’s her determination that keeps them on the road and one step ahead of the cops. When she does break down it’s entirely appropriate and it’s only after she is separated from Ravi that she loses her self-control. Gowri is an assured and very positive character and it’s great to see such a strong female role in a film genre that is usually much more male dominated. However, Soori ensures that the duo definitely are a couple – each has their own strengths and weaknesses and despite Gowri’s outward confidence she needs Ravi’s dependence on her in order to keep her own anxieties at bay. It’s a more mature and realistic relationship than I was expecting from the opening scenes and it’s well developed and portrayed by the two young actors.

The music from V. Harikrishna is mainly used as background to portions of the road trip and generally fits well into the narrative. Nenape Nithya Mallige is used to show Ravi’s memories of meeting Gowri but it’s also a great song and the sequence sums up their relationship well.

Everything in Kendasampige works to deliver a well-developed story in a convincing screenplay. The performances are excellent and each character skilfully used to further develop the plot. This is one of the best police dramas I’ve seen from the Kannada film industry and it’s made even better by the inclusion of a road trip through cities I’ve never heard of, but which look interesting to visit, and a romance that’s more realistic and better developed than usual. It’s a short film too, little over an hour and a half, which makes it even more impressive that Soori fits so much into the time including enough character and plot back stories and ensuring plenty of plot development too. I loved this film and can’t wait to see the rest of the trilogy when it does release. But even without the prequel, Kendasampige is not to be missed and I highly recommend it as a complete edge-of-your-seat thriller that impresses on every level. A full 5 stars.