Tamil Reviews

Kallapadam Review: Heist With a Moral

This has been done before, this rags-to-riches tale about young men dreaming big.  A few young men living out of camp beds in a one-room tenement want to make a movie, and want to make it together. Conveniently enough, one of them has just the story for it – inspired by a grisly past; another is a musician; and there is also an aspiring cinematographer and an actor in the mix.

But then, this is no mere movie.


Director J Vadivel plays himself. He is the one with the grisly past. Composer K plays himself, too. He’s the musician. And, Srirama Santhosh is the cameraman. Kallapadam could well be the tale of how Kallapadam was made. Really. Something that Kathai Thiraikkathai Vasanam Iyakkam tried to achieve, and did to an extent.

Here too we have aspiring directors (sheaf of papers and shuffling feet) who get turned down by ‘very commercial’ producers wanting only “romance, action, and a few digs at women and the elderly” (cheeky, this) – their consequent impoverished existence, and then, their thirst for success. Jigarthanda had a similar premise as well, but it was completely different – a gangster flick with a little subplot,  and was rarely ever weepy. Or moral. It was fun.

Kallapadam, on the other hand, deals some heavy-handed blows to producers. Those fickle, money-minded, thirsting-for-profit creatures who are scornful of anything ‘art house’. J Vadivel’s poignant script about koothu artistes barely strikes a chord with them. Despite him telling them that it was very personal. Echoes here of Sangamam, 

Kallapadam is also snivellingly childish that way. Passive aggressive retorts apart, there’s also a quick jibe at the censor board, disguising a dirty something in the course of a rhyme.


So when Vadivel finally decides that he would be able to realise his dream only by pulling off a heist (Kallapadam, see?), he likens it to that of filmmaking itself. Pre-production, he says, is preparation while shooting would be the actual raid. He neatly outlines this for everyone to see.

And doesn’t stop at that.

At every stage of the operation, there are pointers on screen. Text, explaining the course of action. For all his meticulous planning, these sharp nudges are a dead giveaway. That Vadivel is just a debutant with a neat little idea.



There’s also a lot of pent-up angst in Kallapadam. In one of the early scenes, a woman, who is presumably engaged to a film editor balks at the idea of marrying him when she learns that he’s not an actor after all.

A movie technician, apparently, has a tough time finding a bride. And a tougher time if he’s just an aspirant.

…so the editor slaps her. That’s the other thing with the movie. It loads a gun and does some symbolic shooting at everything it finds irritable.



The heist is slow. It also lazily snatches an idea from the Robert De Niro starrer – The Score (the movie admits to it with an idle justification) – “we are just stealing a scene, not a whole film” – and is quite reminiscent of those early Eastman Colour movies. Rich men with wads and wads of cash tucked away in mysterious little cellars under the floorboard or within the walls (the key hidden behind an unassuming painting).

But then, we are dealing with honest, compassionate thieves in Kallapadam. The kind who return the money as soon as they earn some, are just as charitable, and give up all their winnings to a wanting producer. This is perhaps where Jigarthanda had more spunk. It was brazen. And, unapologetic.

Here, you just wish they’d get on with it already.


The Kallapadam 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.