The hero of Kasada Tabara, an intersectional film of six shorts, is easily Premgi Amaren. A Venkat Prabhu production populated with his familiars, including Sampath Raj, and unsurprisingly, the filmmaker himself, Premgi is eminently likeable as the fuss-free actor that he usually is. He belongs in the film so effortlessly that it’s hard to perceive him as a strategic placement borne out of careful thought. His dialogues seem nothing out of the ordinary, mirroring the lines of the most popular actors – and heroes – of Tamil cinema. You sense no larger message or biting opinions on everyday politics. But they exist the way Premgi does in his films – matter-of-factly – and are likewise hilariously acidic.  

In the first short, Kavasam (Shield), Premgi is a low-wage upper-caste labourer who is an embodiment of all Tamil essential virtues: loving and giving over and above his means – a true Friday’s Child like most Tamil heroes. He’s also avowedly socialist, and decidedly aromantic, resisting a woman only to later succumb to her advances – against his will, it must be said. In a funny instance, Bala, on date #1, enlightens his woman friend on the evils of capitalism and has her embrace his way of life. On date #2, he tells her that he was about to refuse her offer of marriage, but then, much to his woe, she has worn a sari to their meeting (on Broken Bridge). 

Director Chimbu Deven (Oru Kanniyum Moondru Kalavanigalum, 2014) also posits Yugi Sethu as a divine entity in Bala’s life: one that he neither worships nor resists, but talks to at will and is seemingly directed by. In subtle commentary, Sethu as Krishna points out the privileges that Bala has even in romance. Bala remarks on the incompatibility: vendam, pizza le sambar oothina maathiri 

Kasada Thabara – featuring shorts that begin with or highlight each Tamil consonant – is an anthology relay, with the protagonist in each short playing into the next. It is fairly entertaining for a certain time. Much like Super Deluxe (2019), Kasada Tabara presents a few seemingly disparate tracks, each of them owned by a sole protagonist – Premgi as Bala, the low-wage labourer prone to fits of charitable goodness; Sampath Raj as the city don with an overpowering love for his son (Shanthanu Bhagyaraj); Sundeep Kishan as a cop who resists the evils of his job, only to find enough reasons to engage with them later; Harish Kalyan as Kish, a man who manipulates his way into wealth; Vijayalakshmi as Sundari, a young mother caught in a drug conspiracy; and Venkat Prabhu as Samyukthan, a driver whose unquestioning loyalty to his employer is punished.  

Two of the films – Sadhiyadal (Conspiracy) and Thappattam (Foul Play) – are fuelled by the metamorphosis of their characters while Kavasam and Pandhayam (Competition) play with deceit. Arampatra (Righteousness) and Akkarai (Care), headlined by Vijayalakshmi and Venkat Prabhu, respectively, attempt to bind the tales together.

In Thappattam, a favourite of this reviewer, Sundeep Kishan as Kanda, a young man underprivileged in class and caste, lands a much-cherished job as a cop. It is an ideal that he and his wife had aspired to. He soon becomes disillusioned with what his role demands of him, being subjected to insidious harassment by a superior who sees him not as a fellow member of the police force, but as someone who’d dared to dream beyond his means (and caste-assigned occupation). Kanda is mutinous at first; he holds fast to his ideals and doesn’t do what is asked of him. Then, something snaps.  

In Arampatra, the expressive Vijayalakshmi is a beleaguered single mother who works at a government-run school during the day as a cook and aide when a chance meeting with a stranger disrupts her life. The stranger is Harish Kalyan’s Kish from Pandhayam, now heir to a fortune that is not his. Akkarai, the last short in the series, stars Venkat Prabhu in the lead as an employee whose loyalty is rewarded with a death sentence. It attempts to wrap up the film, to tell us the collective past, present and future of its characters. Only, much as the initial segments, it vacillates between hilarity and downright absurdity in its portrayal of characters and plot alike. The shorts are entertaining nevertheless. But the final act – usually the anchor in a relay – sorely lacks inspiration. Consider this (spoiler alert): a misplaced file is the prized link that travels through the shorts to exonerate a death-row convict. It’s not exactly a ridiculous plot element considering the production values, but it is an ill-conceived, overlong end to what could have been an engaging film. 

****

This Kasada Tabara 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 any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.