For most sea food lovers, karuvadu (dried fish) is a delicacy. But many people are repelled by what they’d politely call its “stench”. I’m certainly no exception. Even the director, Radha Mohan told us that he couldn’t stand the dish. The uppu karuvadu in the film is Chandran (Karunakaran). The story is about his struggles to make a film, and how these struggles turn him into a ‘Kaanju pona karuvadu‘.
Radha Mohan is adept at comedy. Barring Gouravam, every one of his films (including a hijack film), gives the audience plenty to laugh about. From the trailer, it was obvious that Uppu Karuvadu would be full of ‘counter dialogues’, slapstick jokes, and characters played by Chams, Mayilsamy, MS Bhaskar, ‘Doubt’ Senthil, and Saravanan. On the big screen, the comedy gels effortlessly with the story, and dialogues never feel extraneous. Each comedian has a different shade to his or her character, ensuring that there’s no repetition and comedy overkill.
Senthil, known for his running gag ‘Daddy enaku oru doubt-u‘ on a popular TV channel, delivers an outstanding performance. It’s light years ahead of his televised humour. His character is Stephen Raj, a simpleton from a village who joins the film crew as an Assistant Director. Just because he can’t do anything else. Stephen Raj is disarmingly familiar. He’s that one guy who does something he’s bad at, just because he’s worse at everything else. Nandita wins the coolest contemporary actress award hands down, for even accepting such an off-beat role. She plays Maha, a girl Chandran is forced to cast as his heroine, because she’s the producer’s daughter. It certainly looks like she had a blast on sets. Her job in Uppu Karuvadu is to overact, overdress, and irritate everyone else.
In his interview with Silverscreen.in, Radha Mohan, talked about the portrayal of women in his films:
I admire women who are confident. The kind that doesn’t expect any slack just because she’s a woman. And that’s how I want my female characters to be. I guess I have been influenced by the women in my life.
Chandran’s imagined heroine is a strong willed, individualistic woman. But in plot reality, he’s stuck with Maha, whose acting consists of overacting, and nothing else. Karunakaran, in his debut film as the male lead, delivers a truly memorable, restrained performance. When he’s in a helpless situation, the audience feels for him. Just as we feel for Chandran, the lead character in Radha Mohan’s debut film Azhagiya Theeye. Interestingly, that Chandran was an aspiring film-maker as well.
Radha Mohan’s canvas deftly touches on a number of social issues. There’s a scene where a cop tries some ‘Moral Policing’ on Chandran and his friend. The two are sitting in a park, just talking. When told to move away, they don’t meekly obey. Instead, they turn the question back at the policeman, and ask him why two people talking would be a crime. There’s also a well-written scene in which Chandran responds to a person who says Chandran’s film ‘hurt the sentiments’ of his community.
There are scenes where the director takes a dig at typical film practices and thematic clichés, and even turns the jovial spotlight on his own previous work. The real winner in Uppu Karuvaadu are the dialogues, which are funny, witty, sensible, and perfectly timed. The one drawback: a dash of the trademark Radha Mohan melodrama, especially in the second half. It’s the one distraction in an otherwise solid main plot.
While the stench of karuvadu might be hard to bear, Uppu Karuvadu has a familiar, and well-loved scent. The one that screams ‘feel good’, and is a staple of all Radha Mohan films. It’s a sugary concoction with the right notes of uppu (salt) in between, leaving us with a lingering pleasant taste in our minds.
The Uppu Karuvadu 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.