In Kadamban, director Ragava gives his hero a savior complex and unlimited wardrobe money to spend at Urban Outfitters and Toni & Guy.
Arya plays a super-fit tribal youth – all bulging muscles and expertly-tossed hair. He looks more like a surfer dude than anything else, but his female fans don’t seem to mind.
The ones sitting next to me confide, “We only came to watch his eight packs.”
So, it’s that kind of a film. There’s social message, oh yes – save nature, save forests, save animals, save tribal people; but it is all lost every time Arya decides to shake his hair a la Baywatch. Or runs in slo-mo to save his people.
The camera is almost voyeuristic in these scenes, dwelling on Arya’s light eyes, his impressive body and his naturally bouncy hair.
That it doesn’t allot much screen time to heroine, Catherine Tresa, is a win on so many levels. But, there is the feeling that Arya has been severely disadvantaged by his looks. He is prettier than most heroines, and commands a sizable female following. And this naturally begins to dictate his films, so that the actor is required to do the things heroines do. He takes off his shirt, he runs around in skimpy attire. Look at that man’s body, the camera screams. It’s objectification, really.
But even when a film such as Kadamban offers Arya a little more to do than just strut around in minimal clothing, he doesn’t use the opportunity. The actor has limited acting skills, and doesn’t command the sort of screen presence that a hero of this film requires.
So, when he spouts lines like, “Ennoda iyyan inga dhaan irundhaar; naan inga irukken. Ennoda sandhadhiyum inga dhaan irukkum” (My father lived in this land, I live here. My future generations will also live here), it doesn’t come as the declaration of war it is supposed to be. With the actor’s sub-par command over the Tamil language, it becomes a meme, something to poke fun at.
Considering the issues Ragava wants to tackle through this film, that’s unfortunate.
Kadamban focuses on the battle between an eco-warrior and his corporate counterpart. So naturally, the audience needs to be hand-held and led to support Arya’s Kadamban with his dead eyes and phony talk of conservation. Phony because Arya doesn’t really try that hard to project sincerity. Dead, because well, have you ever looked into the man’s eyes?
Anyway, the director Ragava does a lot of hand-holding. He nudges the audience towards the hero’s impressive acting skills, his eight packs body and just how virile and manly the man is.
It’s like having an annoying fan sitting right next to you, whispering, “Isn’t he hot?”, “Isn’t he great?”, “Isn’t he just awesome?” throughout the film.
Unfortunately for Ragava, the answer to all those questions is a resounding NO!
Meanwhile, in the forestland, Kadamban’s sandhadhi (clan) have lived for centuries. They spear fish, collect honey to support themselves, and are a generally happy lot.
That is, until the villain tries to uproot them so that he can get access to the mineral deposits in their land.
And then, well… it is time for war.
Kaadu tried to draw inspiration from the Eelam struggle; Vidharth tried to help his people and the land he was brought up in, while one of their own lays waste to it.
Ragava has similar ambitions. He wants to showcase the plight of the oppressed. For oppressed they are – by the unforgiving terrain they live off, by forest rangers who look upon them with disgust and charity workers who try to lure them away in the guise of offering help. It’s a strange, cruel world these people live in.
And yet, with the director’s insistence on making Arya the savior, the point is lost. With a real actor and a tight script, this film could have done better.
As it stands though, it is a needless exercise in filmmaking that uses well-worn tropes to show how one man fought off the corporate bad boys.
Yuvan Shankar Raja is also in this, the end credits remind me.
Good thing they did, because that music… so not Yuvan.
The Kadamban 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.