Vidharth could well be on to something here. Kuttrame Thandanai. Oru Kidaiyin Karunai Manu. And now, Kurangu Bommai, which despite not really deserving of the cult status merited to the first two films, does deserve its share of appreciation. The actor isn’t really setting the screen on fire with his performances, and he doesn’t have to. It’s his ability to remain quietly in the shadows, to be content playing your average man on the streets that makes these films the gritty, realistic stories they are. Kurangu Bommai’s story, admittedly, isn’t one that you’d believe could happen in your neighbourhood. It’s something about a statue being smuggled for crores, and how the fates of various people get intertwined.
Cast: Vidharth, Bharathiraja, Thenappan
But the faces in the film help make it all real. Vidharth, Bharathiraja, Thenappan, Elango Kumaravel, Bala Singh, Krishnamoorthy… they make the events feel like they could be happening on the roads you travel every day, if only you stopped to notice. They talk like people you know, and make the sort of jokes you likely crack. Kathir (Vidharth) is forced to partner with a pickpocket, when looking for his lost father. He gets on the pickpocket’s bike and asks why he isn’t wearing a helmet. The latter dryly responds, “Bike mattum dhaan irundhudhu.” In another scene, Kathir is in a police station being a do-gooder, sees a woman he already knows, and tells the inspector about it. The inspector quips, “Ivarukku elaarayum theriyum!” There are quite a few jokes of the kind you don’t get to see in Tamil cinema all too often.
There are at least a couple of wonderful performances in the film. Bharathiraja playing Kathir’s father is an epitome of vulnerability, and gets a lengthy monologue to add to his highlight reel. The scene’s a retelling of a childhood story that at once establishes his relationship with another key character, and also leads the film into its final, shockingly dark stretches. This is also when Elango Kumaravel, an actor you generally remember seeing only in Radha Mohan’s films, takes centrestage. While the last frightening portions help elevate the overall quality, it’s also a problem that the film doesn’t quite ready you for them. You could say that the sudden, menacing shift is calculated to jolt you, but even if that be the case, some of the contrivances, especially in the first half, threaten to upset the overall harmony of the story. There’s an altogether dispensable duet in the first half that follows close on the heels of a couple of underwhelming love scenes. The heroine (Delna Davis) gives him the quintessential Tamil heroine’s romantic look and asks him not to follow her, which, of course, is love-speak for ‘follow me please’, and so, Kathir does. It’s an idea that has no place in a film like this.
There are also quite a few coincidences that don’t come together as organically as they should. Kathir happens to be at the same police station that the heroine walks into. After a couple of scenes, he happens to be at the same bus stop where a bag belonging to his father is getting stolen. Later, the pickpocket happens to be from the same locality where his father is presumed to have been lost. Kurangu Bommai would’ve been all the better without such conveniences.
Also, I’m not altogether sure about the U/A certificate for a film that has a severed head in a sack that’s in danger of being chewed by a dog. I also recall at least one scene of a man’s finger getting bent out of shape, and another that shows a man’s limbs having been severed. I’m not at all sure if it’s a film for children to see, adult supervision or otherwise, but there’s no questioning that it’s definitely another useful little film from the ever-improving Vidharth stable.
This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.