Director: Madhumita Sundararaman
Cast: Mu Ramasamy, Naga Vishal
In a statement to the press, some time ago, filmmaker Madhumita Sundararaman, who’s directed the superb KD Engira Karuppu Durai said that it wasn’t just an ‘award film’ but one that was entertaining. That divide (art house vs commercial) has always been less stark in Tamil, with even the experimental, embracing elements of the commercial. KD too embraces the thrills and the joys of commercial cinema, the sheer escapism of it all, only in a slightly different manner. It is woven into the very plot of the film. One of the many superb scenes in the film, features KD (the delightful Mu Ramasamy), watching MGR fight a lion, his eyes gleaming, in a theatre. Towards the end of the film, there’s another very meta scene in which KD embraces the thing he loves and the thing he’s running away from…
The camera in KD… lovingly showcases sweeping shots of places, in rural TN (the film was shot mostly in Virudhunagar and Thenkasi), but when it comes to people, it’s focus remains tight. Every face, every character serves a purpose, has a presence; that feels well thought out. So the film’s not all mumblecore, even though it is immersive and we feel like we are just travelling with the people in these frames. In fact, the writing of the film’s two main protagonists KD and Kutty (Naga Vishal), one 80 and the other eight, is so strong that you may almost miss some of the smaller, finer, nuances in the writing of the other characters and their circumstances.
KD is a father of five and has grandchildren, who all seem to know what he loves — MGR, mutton biriyani, music… The man’s slipped into a coma and hasn’t woken up in a few months, which puts an economic burden on the family that decides to carry out ‘thalaikoothal’. The news that this act of killing the old is still prevalent in TN was broken by journalist Pramila Krishnan 10 years ago in an expose. The news gained further momentum when Pramila was invited to speak in Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate. The old are slathered in oil and fed tender coconut water, until they die.
KD wakes up right on time and runs away from home, to save himself from his kids, and then meets Kutty who was abandoned as an infant in a temple. The two hit it off and Kutty helps KD come up with a bucket list. It’s a simple yet aspirational list of things KD must do before he eventually kicks the bucket. While these two are on the road, his family hires a man (Yog Jappee) to find him. He’s on their tail.
From a temple priest to a chicken farmer/koothu artiste (a terrifically written and well performed role), stage mimicry competitions to thiruvizhas, the film features the ordinary and the special from Tamil villages but never once does the camera look at the happenings as a voyeur. As if it were displaying a parade of kitsch. Nor is it all elaborate and deliberate. There’s a sense of realness that is not belaboured. There’s even playfulness at times…
Kutty’s lines in KD… are especially superb. Very rarely do we get kids whose precociousness is not grating… This is where the writing takes over. There’s enough sentiment to make the film heartwarming, but there’s also enough in there to keep it engaging. Every time KD eats biriyani others around him want to eat it too. When he acts like Rajini and MGR, fans of the actors feel his passion. When he signs his name, his family feels a hint of shame — but none of this is ‘explained’. Just a nod, an expression, or a hint of a smile of a daughter’s when she realises her father has got the best of everyone… There are throwaway remarks, like the voiceover at the beginning that asks why are all the men just relaxed, when the women, young and old are slaving? These offer a pithy editorialised version of the story. We see as much of Madhumita in this opening scene (and a few others), as we do of her KD.
The most impressive thing about this film? Here’s someone inspired to write and make art, about things that are very wrong in our society, our way of life… without making it an angry rant of a ‘karuthu’ movie. What is the artiste’s job, if not to respond with nuance? Madhumita dons the artiste’s hat with perfection in KD. Whether we want to see what she’s saying through the KDs and Kuttys of the world, is up to us. (And I am glad she leaves that up to us.) She takes on only the burden of telling a good story. And that is the really hard thing to do here.
The KD Engira Karuppu Durai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.