Kaaka Muttai Review: Rare Blend of Charm and Thoughtful Satire.

by Mani Prabhu

Once in a while, comes along a film, that reminds us of the magical ability of the cinematic art form to successfully blend two antithetical emotional components – something that emphatically warms our hearts, while at the same time manages to pull a few heart strings – something that leaves us endeared and uplifted, while simultaneously raising questions about the nature of the society we live in – something that keeps us thoroughly entertained , while at the same time, not confirming to the unwritten rules of the movie trade – something that makes us exit the cinema hall with a huge smile in our faces and some meaningful moisture in our eyes –something that kicks all banalities of film commerce at its butt, while still managing to draw a full house on a weekday noon show!

Kaaka Muttai (Crow’s egg) written and directed by debutant M. Manikandan is one such beautiful film, which happens once in a blue moon.

All you need is love. Or so they say. For the sibling duo, Periya Kaaka Muttai (12) and Chinna Kaaka Muttai (8), who live in a tiny concrete and tin house in one of the biggest slums of Chennai with their mother and grandmother, love is just not enough. All they need is a pizza from a leading chain outlet that had recently opened in the premises of their old playground. It all starts when their mother, trying her best to get her husband acquitted from jail while struggling to make ends meet, brings home a television set provided by the government. The lip smacking ad for the pizza chain aired on TV probably acts as the last straw, as they take a pledge to save the three hundred rupees needed to buy a small pizza.

Kaaka Muttai tastefully follows the brothers’ escapades, as they embark on this seemingly trifle mission, catching us howling in delight one moment, grinning in warmth another moment, teary- eyed in a poignant instance, gaping in silence over an unexpected turn of events, laughing at the bold sarcasm and subtle humour at times, contemplating on the stunning social commentary at other times, while cheering on endlessly for the two adorable kids. In the end, an all pervading feel of hope and optimism lingers, taking centre stage, even in an atmosphere that would have otherwise reflected sorrow and despair.

For a debutant director, Manikandan knows exactly what he wants his frames to convey. He takes us into the narrow winding lanes, garbage strewn corners, confusing cul-de-sacs, and the pocket size huts of an urban slum and presents the heart-wrenching context in bewitching detail. But the brilliance of his writing lies in the fact that he never for a moment lets the proceedings turn depressing or cinematically dramatic. He also writes exciting characters that feel real and multi- dimensional and makes us walk with them. Even as he takes hard hitting pot-shots at the social divide plaguing the metro city, he does it in style without taking sides or coming across as didactic.

Interestingly, we never get to know the original names of the kids. Neither do we get to know the real reason behind their father landing up in jail. They all pale, becoming irrelevant and unimportant, in front of the duo’s desperate attempts to achieve the seemingly impossible. Many scenes in the busy roads featuring the boys walking around, no body bothering to even notice them, show the harsh realities of our busy urban life. To the world, they are invisible. They have ceased to exist, until some materialistic issue brings them into prominence. Well, we too, probably wouldn’t have cared to notice if they were on the streets. But when presented on screen, it unsettles us a lot. But Manikandan deftly camouflages all these upsetting thoughts under the smile and dimple of the lively kids.

A stellar cast, effective cinematography and some mood enhancing music by GV. Prakash make sure that Kaaka Muttai is not just a well-written film, but a brilliantly made one too. It takes quite some guts to cast a couple of slum kids as the protagonists, but the results on screen have to be seen to be believed. Vignesh and Ramesh as the kids are just too good in their respective characters, at no moment coming across as ‘cinematic’. They even steal the thunder from Iswarya Rajesh, who literally lives the role of a married woman from the slums.

Kaaka Muttai is probably the most delightful film that I have seen for quite some time now. But then it isn’t just a fun film. It hits hard at another level, leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. It’s the lethal combination of charm and thoughtful satire in celluloid, an almost extinct entity by itself. If that’s not a convincing reason to watch it, what is?