Reeks of mediocrity
Kaaval begins rather ambitiously. It points out, Ramanaa style, that between 1995 and 2014, as many as 34,436 murders took place. If the title didn’t make it obvious enough, this statistic helps you understand that the film’s going for a cat-and-mouse game between policemen and the koolipadai (contract killers), which it claims is responsible for a majority of these murders. It’s not all that easy though, because most of these policemen are hand in glove with the killers; in this case, their head, Karuna (Karuna), who, according to the story, heads all the killings in the state. There’s nothing particularly novel in the idea of policemen calculating their ‘loot’ every day; Katham Katham did it way more interestingly.
And then comes the Saamy-like righteous policeman in the form of Chandrasekhar (Samuthirakani), who reconnoitres the slum that Karuna operates from, while pretending to run a balloon-shooting stall at a nearby beach.
It’s there that he learns that Karuna, when under too much heat from the police, usually cools down with his henchmen by going into deep sea for days together. As if the sea would be free of any patrol. In that sense, Kaaval is all too simplistic. Chandrasekhar’s idea of stopping the money-oiled machine of contract killing is simply to pop a cap into Karuna. He is trigger-happy and has no idea why the Human Rights Commission creates a fuss when he takes down the wrong gangsters by mistake.
To make his point, he stages the kidnapping of the grandchild of a judge, who was earlier against encounters, and manipulates him into granting him permission to take down the gangsters. So much for righteousness!
To make matters worse, you have a wholly dispensable character in Anbu (Vemal), the son of a corrupt constable, who’s happy to cavort with gangsters until he discovers the inherent danger in the association.
You also have a love track, and average songs (rather surprisingly by G. V. Prakash) that do no favours to the film’s lofty ‘thriller’ aspirations. Towards the end, it almost feels like all the characters — policemen, gangsters, everybody — are equipped with the power of teleportation, even as they move from Chennai to Ooty in super-quick time.
The theatre I watched it in was dangerously devoid of any human activity, with policemen often directing their flashlights towards my seat suspiciously, as if wondering what I could be doing on a week day, sitting in a corner seat, watching this film. I don’t blame them.