Grubby little things, hair streaked crimson; their tiny home – a one-room tenement in a sprawling slum; mother, a daily-wage labourer, father in prison… and a big, big world that calls out to them. A world full of enticing things… like pizza. Just that. The standard flag-bearer for high-society showcase.
It was made for film festivals. Like Children of Heaven. Like Slumdog Millionaire. Except, this this is made in India. By an Indian filmmaker.
The camera feasts on those visuals. And sets itself strict boundaries. It wouldn’t venture out of the slums. Of course, it doesn’t need to. The subject and the object(s) are right within. A poverty-stricken world where the lavatory and what passes for a living room are separated by a mere wisp of a cloth; where children pick coals off the railway tracks instead of attending school, where a small CRT television – even one with grainy visuals – is made much of. And, where the ‘rich and mighty’ – the other, evil end of their little world – is represented by a pizza chain whose unfortunate crime was to set shop in the vicinity of the slums (“Illadha pattavanga munnadi kadai vechu yen verupethanum?”).
Yet, I loved Kaakka Muttai. It is probably what you’d call heart-warming. Two sooty little lads, who, on their quest to eat that delicious pizza that they see on an advertisement, learn some crucial life lessons. They made me laugh, and quite so often. That’s another thing I loved about it – for a movie that is structured around poverty, and even glorifies it sometimes in as many words (listen to the songs), it is hardly weepy – save for a few minutes. There’s love, strife, reconciliation, learning …and laughs. When the younger lad – Chinna Kaakka Muttai to his friends – cheekily shoves a toy watch under a local watchmaker’s nose to get it running, the instances with the boys’ grandmother, who bravely tries to pass off a dosai as pizza, and their mother’s chagrin when they hunt down kaakka muttais to satiate their craving for eggs. It’s all done beautifully, without a singular nudge for sympathy. Such lovely camerawork, too.
I also loved the fact that the director doesn’t make a concerted effort to tie up those loose ends. The mother (Iyshwarya Rajesh) – some stark portrayal, this – absolutely well done – and her boys strive hard to bail the father from prison, but we never get to know whether they succeed. It’s a slice-of-life story, a vision that debutant M Mankandan stays true to. It begins in poverty, and ends in poverty – a pizza-tasting journey at heart. Also, the director names no names. The elder boy is called Periya Kaakka Muttai, the little one remains Chinna Kaakka Muttai, and their much older friend and mentor, Pazharasam. A must watch.
The Kaakka Muttai Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.