Kodiveeran: A rural awareness exercise at best

I can think of one ostensible use for Kodiveeran, given that it doesn’t quite deliver on its primary promise — entertainment. It should be able to serve as an educational film about life and customs in rural Tamil Nadu. We all know about panchayats, of course — thanks to Tamil films. But Muthaiya also takes it upon himself — often at the cost of storytelling — to show you the details of rural rituals. By the end of the film, you know what an ear-piercing ceremony in a village would be like. You know what a temple festival would entail. You know what a woman has to go through when her husband dies. Dowry, jallikattu… it’s all there. The best compliment I can give Kodiveeran is that hey, at least, you learn something.

Director: Muthaiya
Cast: Sasikumar, Vidharth, Mahima, Sanusha, Pasupathy

What’s worse than a rural film with a trite brother-sister angle? One with three such  angles. There’s Kodiveeran (Sasikumar) and his doting sister (Sanusha), who wears a perennial grin. There’s Kodiveeran’s girlfriend (Mahima Nambiar) and her brother (Vidharth). And finally, there’s the villain (Pasupathy, who seems to be playing a role straight from his Dhool days) and his evil sister (Poorna, whose intensity I rather liked). It’s not an exaggeration when I say that the film comes up woefully short in the storytelling department. There’s nothing new, nothing to kindle your intrigue. It’s not just a no-contest between Kodiveeran and the baddies; it’s a banal no-contest.

Kodiveeran is a one-man fighting machine. He gets a series of horribly cheesy lines to herald his arrival. His sister goes, “Prachanai na kannan varuvaano illiya, enga annan varuvaan.” I put my popcorn down. Another man immediately goes, “Kodiveeran edhira varaven illa, edhirka varaven.” I flung my popcorn. By the time, the villain says, “Kodiveeran aayirathla oruthan illa. Aayiram paer serndha oruthan”, I vowed never to eat popcorn again.

I didn’t even understand why the villain and his cohort keep trying to hurt him anyway. Kodiveeran stabs a guy, and it causes him to backflip. He punches a guy, and it causes him to somersault. So distanced I was from the events of the film that I began to wonder how many newtons of force a fist must exert for the recipient to get suspended in air for as long as Kodiveeran’s enemies often do.

Muthaiya doesn’t just stop with lessons in science; he gives you some in morality too. “Aambalai aambalaikku love letter kuduthaa thappu.” “Oru ponnuku aathram vara koodadhu.” “Veliya poitu vara aambalaikku, pombala dhaan nalladhu kaththu kudukkanum.” It’s like whoever wrote the dialogues had just seen Padayappa. Kodiveeran also suffers from a dialogue-writing plague that continues to hurt Tamil films. It’s when the writer tries to be too clever, and ends up almost making a joke out of a serious scene. For instance, Kodiveeran’s girlfriend gifts his sister a chain that has his photo in the pendant. Not content with gifting her that, she says, “Unga annan unakku chain potrukaaru. Naan unga annanaye chain-a potrukken.” It’s like she’d been rehearsing this line for a few days, in the hope that upon her saying it, people would break into applause. The film ultimately ends with a dedication to all the ‘sisters’. Oh, the irony of writing sexist lines and then dedicating it to a woman. Classic.

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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