An extremely well-made, hard-hitting drama with psychological undertones, Kuttram Kadithal is a celluloid experience that transcends the confines of the usual eulogistic adjectives…
writes Mani Prabhu
No Spoilers Ahead…
With the insightfully titled Kuttram Kadithal, writer-director Bramma comes out with a haunting, bewitchingly crafted beauty of a film in his debut, in the process narrating a dramatic tale of guilt, repentance and psychological distress with the confidence and skill of a seasoned film-maker. Right from the first frame, when an apparently nervous couple board a container truck on a deserted highway, the film subverts with remarkable subtlety, every unwritten rule of our mainstream dramas.
It’s a little tough to discuss the film, which is more of a part-heartwarming-part-painful exploration of the human psyche than a full fledged dark drama, without spoiling it for the first time viewer. Four sets of characters go about their daily routine with varying dreams and intentions, when an unfortunate accident and its infinite repercussions throw their lives upside down. Kuttram Kadithal traces the reactions of these people and the society around them to the unexpected crisis, with loads of sensitivity and surprising objectivity.
A lesser filmmaker might have tapped the conflict for more manipulative emotions by taking sides – by painting a particular set of characters in bad light. But Bramma handles the material with great subtlety, ensuring that only the right kind of sensationalism appears on screen, He also chooses to take you through the emotional currents with an almost unsettling sense of realism, while consciously staying away from most of the melodramatic/stereotypical clichés that are so typical of the genre.
Brilliant characterisations aided by some stunning imagery
The writing is brilliant, with each of the artists being given unique transformation arcs. The added layer of emotional perplexion arises through the inherent psychological depth Bramma bestows his characters with. No character is too small or too evil to be regarded as undeserving of our emotional investment or concern. Right from the hurting middle-aged couple to the extremely devout mother, every character’s motives, interactions and primal mental struggles are staged magnificently.
And all of these are awash with some stunning aesthetic imagery. Consider for instance, a particular sequence in a church, when a character contrives for her actions after a long stare at the rear view mirror of a two-wheeler. The narrative is strewn with such impressive subtexts, none of them shoved on our faces. Right from the introduction of the protagonists to the hard-hitting scene inside an auto, the emphasis is constantly on the unseen and the unheard. And it works beautifully.
And Bramma gives his narrative brilliant streaks of suspense, which blends effectively with the drama. The script doesn’t signpost itself at any moment, but the audience are unknowingly being led by the nose. Yes, it’s less of a thriller than an atmospheric unraveling of retribution and guilt. The film artfully sneaks up to your head, messes with it in antithetical ways and then blows you away. You can’t shake it off. It’s that haunting, that compelling! And more importantly, the film doesn’t preach. Even sequences that walk a tight rope between philosophy and didacticism are integrated organically into the genre framework. The dialogue is potent, yet very believable and the events unfold at the perfect pace to draw you along, deep into the emotional muddle.
The moody cinematography (Manikandan), the lingering surreal imagery, the editing (CS. Prem), the spectacular background score and haunting musical montages (Shankar Rengarajan) – everything scream of a Mysskin-isque sort of disregard for conventions. The montages, in particular, are extraordinarily conceptualized and shot – proof of how a film-maker with a vision can revere the commercial must-haves and yet not be a slave to them.
While the leads, Radhika Prasidhha and Sai Rajkumar as the newlywed and Pavel Navageethan as the socialist, come out with amazing performances, many a times in such dramatic character studies, it’s the supporting actors who make the difference between a good film and a great one. Bramma and his team, seeming to have realised this and struck gold with the entire cast. Kuttram Kadithal arguably has only one minor misstep, and that occurs at the end. Instead of fading out at the point when everything is in place for the rolling of the credits, the film stretches on for a resolving sequence, that kind of fizzles out the impact. But again, these are highly subjective preferences.
Walking out of Kuttram Kadithal, you can’t help but wish that the film does well in the box-office. With a majority of our mainstream movies turning out to be nothing more than money-minting excuses, there is very little that can be called ‘pure’ cinema. The success of films like Kuttram Kadithal might restore the balance, at least for the time being.