Kadaikutty Singam is an unabashed celebration of the rural life, an appeal to our nostalgia. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before – it’s just been a while since we have seen these things. Agriculture romanticisation? Check. A paean to the joint family? Check. A smattering of some caste conflict? Check. Some good ol’ fashioned moralising? Check. The film even has Soori in top form, and thankfully, he lays off the ‘rhyming comedy’ routine he takes recourse to in his urban films. His comic interjections are largely enjoyable amid all the heavy-duty drama.
Cast: Karthi, Sathyaraj, Sayyeshaa, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Soori
The film is strongest when it is about the politics of Ranasingam’s (Sathyaraj) extended family. He’s got a son, five daughters with their respective husbands and children, and two wives to boot. Ranasingam isn’t into alcohol like some of his in-laws. His poison of choice is his family, and his son, Gunasingam (Karthi), is raised in his image. The whole setup is rather patriarchal, and the very reason why he’s got two wives is to birth a son. He even almost considers a third, at one point. As you realise in the film, he craves this boy child so much because you know, he can do things that girl children supposedly cannot – like running a family, maintaining Ranasingam’s farms, keeping the family united. Pandiraj is wise to this whole championing of the boy child, and at the end, sneaks in a line about how Gunasingam is quite happy with a girl, but really, it feels only like the film’s paying lip service. I wish someone somewhere in this film had problematised Ranasingam’s manic desire for a boy, but for lack of this, his smug, self-assured support for his son – even if justified by his son’s nobility – rankles a bit.
Karthi plays the role comfortably, and for large parts of the film, with that trademark grin plastered across his face. At least two characters in the film make a reference to it, and I like that in one emotional showdown, this facet actually helps elevate the impact of the scene. Gunasingam also serves as the posterboy of agriculture, and director Pandiraj doesn’t seem to have been bogged down by any necessity to be subtle about it, or to find clever ways of weaving this into the story. Gunasingam’s got ‘Vivasayi’ plastered above the number plate on his bike, and lets no opportunity to sermonise about agriculture, go waste. He sermonises when his job is thought to be too laughable in a family invitation. He sermonises when a town bus doesn’t stop to pick up a farmer lady. And later, he sermonises when he’s actually asked to sermonise. I let out a small chuckle. It’s not like he needed any persuasion to do that. But as sermons go, you could pick worse things, I suppose.
I wish Kadaikutty Singam had just been about Ranasingam and family and the problems within. For perhaps the purpose of manufacturing fight scenes, Pandiraj’s got a villain Kodiarasu (Chandru), who from time to time sends his cronies so Gunasingam can dispatch them with surprising ease. Perhaps realising the futility of these fights, the director does try to spice it up with some humour and festive fervour. A la Dhool, there’s always a crew playing some music, so Gunasingam can feel less bored while sending these thugs airborne. Meanwhile, Kodiarasu is the sort of lunatic to prepare for prison by defecating with his door open. I didn’t get why his assistants continued to work with him.
More seriously though, the film should really have just remained a drama, not so much the masala film it tries to be from time to time. And while on wishes, the love angle reeks of fatigue too. These days, it’s almost like writers just worry about the where, and not the how of romance. In this film, it’s a bus where Gunasingam sees Kannukiniyal (Sayyeshaa) for the first time, and well, the rest is fairly obvious, isn’t it?
There are some nifty little touches too. In such stories, you’d typically expect the hero’s dad or the most senior member of the family – the grandmother here – to get knocked off. A funeral scene is typically a mandatory affair in rural films. But here, it happens for a different reason, and I quite liked that. Also greatly likeable is the casting of Ranasingam’s family. The faces greatly add to the rootedness of the film. As films go, you can do worse than Kadaikutty Singam. And in any case, when was the last time you had a film ending with the word ‘subam’? That was enough to appeal to my nostalgia.
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.