Kalathur Gramam: A surprisingly efficient rural drama

I was pleasantly surprised by Kalathur Gramam, by many of its painstakingly created efficient aspects. The sub-plots come together really well. Almost all the lead performers seem to know what they are doing. For the most part, the film’s also really well shot. A jail scene stands testament. The hero, Kedathirukka (Kishore), stands behind the bars and asks his friend, Veeranna (Tarun Shatriya), about his chances of getting bail. There’s also a lawyer in the scene. The entire room is plunged into darkness, save for the faces of Kedathirukka and Veeranna, which are partly illuminated. The lawyer’s completely in the dark. In a scene that’s mainly about the changed dynamics between two friends, he is a needless presence. You don’t always get low-budget village films shot with this sort of attention to detail. It’s the sort of efficient film that tells you what a mistake it is to judge a film’s worth by the star status of its cast and crew.

Kalathur Gramam
Director: Saran Advaithan
Cast: Kishore, Yagna Shetty, Tarun Shatriya

It’s not a great film, mind you, but it’s constantly trying to do some interesting little things, and for the most part, they are all done satisfactorily. Among its inventive bits is its play on the timeline of events. It doesn’t take you to the flashback with a boring dialogue, as films customarily do. It stops with showing a man near death, who sees two important women in his life calling him to come across to the other side… and that’s that. The film slips into how-we-got-here mode. It’s about a village, Kalathur Gramam, and its acrimony with the police force. It’s also about Kedathirukka, the leader/protector of the village, and how he ends up with the woman, who has supposedly begotten a child with another man, his friend. It’s also about how his son wants nothing more than to stab a knife into his gut. And it’s about his friendship with the crafty Veeranna, and its about his rivalry with an Andhra gangster, Bhima Rao. There’s a lot to take in, but Kalathur Gramam always seems in control. If you’re the sort to get a bit carried away, you could even make a case for the film being also about self-governance and non-conformism.

In a film that’s not shot as well, some of the ideas could have seemed almost parodic. Take the sequence in which Kedathirukka’s son, now all grown up, enacts a killing ritual that he’s practised from boyhood. The shot and the editing really help sell the intensity, the raw rage he feels. Kishore’s intense performance and and Ilaiyaraaja’s music come in handy too. Kishore, especially, carries the film, and gets three different looks to boot. A lengthy Mayana Kollai ritual scene rides on his portrayal.

Kalathur Gramam is longer than it needs to be, and you feel this never more painfully than towards its end portions, but it’s not a serious undoing in a film with all-round competency. The cameo by Ajay Rathnam is a fitting example. He plays the head of an enquiry commission launched into investigating the police brutality. He figures it all out with a series of interrogations, but even while he’s doing it all, he never truly evinces any excitement or betrays any shock about the revelations. He sits there, patiently hearing everything, with the weariness of a person whose job has consistently demanded that he hear tales of such inhumanity. Small touches like this tower over the blemishes.

This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.

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