I am completely at sea when it comes to spotting metaphors, biblical references et al, while watching any film, so all that highbrow stuff is left for professional critics. And spoilers ahead.

Kadal, before its release had the best packaging any Kollywood movie can hope for. All the right names – Mani Ratnam, Rajiv Menon, A.R Rahman, Arjun, Aravind Swamy after his long break not that much worse for the wear, star kids of veteran actors who came together  for their debut together years ago ( how much more can you ask for, eh eh ?)

Most of the soundtrack sounded like a very pleasant dream, and any Maniratnam admirer worth his or her salt, probably awaited with bated breath to see how the songs were pictured, for this man’s flair in coming up with gorgeous music videos is very well known.

And obviously, no movie can live upto this high an expectation. Kadal also doesn’t. But it does have a lot of positives.

This is a film about good and evil forces. Arjun is the devil, Aravind Swamy the saint, Gautam Karthik, the cat on the wall [but a very charming one while we’re at that] who’s ultimately swayed by Thulsi Nair, the angel child. We are clearly told why the devil is who he is. We are not sure why the saint is so saintly, but we accept it since Aravind Swamy is your typical nice guy and has not lost the art of being able to pull off  such a role charismatically. And we understand the life-long feud between them.

Gautam Karthik’s character is the real question mark in this film. We are unable to treat him abstractly, purely as a deciding factor in the duel between the good and evil, because of a gut-wrenching portrayal of his childhood. Some of the very chilling but classy sequences with Magudi playing on and a child howling will remain etched in my memory forever. [Incidentally, why is there a seductive woman speaking in the midst of this song. Very distracting and off-place]

We therefore understand his rough ways, his initial tantrums with the priest. But we believe in him, and so we readily accept him growing up into a lovable high-spirited youth who’s loyal to his Father, hot-blooded and yearning for respect, nay even something more than that from the rest of his village-folk.

What is completely unfathomable is why he is lured into sin by the devil, especially as just a scene before, he’s bashing up everyone responsible for throwing the saint into prison. Indeed, for  a long time,  I kept thinking this was one of the movies, where the hero pretends to be a bad guy and after the intermission, says “ta-da. Gotcha! I’m still the good guy” and kept waiting for that moment. Turns out, Kadal does not fall into that category of movies.

Once his descent into sin is not comprehended, clearly his rescue from it by the angel is not appreciated either, which is why maybe Thulasi Nair’s character is a bit puzzling. Also the whole genius at nursing, but slightly deficient mentally characterization is one I cannot grasp. But the romantic sequences are very pleasant. However we Nenjukulle fans have a bone to pick with Mani-Ratnam. What was he thinking, interspersing the song with dialogues ?! I could not decide which to pay more attention to, and ended up with a very muddling image. And the lyrics seemed to be completely tangential to the scene going on. Indeed, this song doesn’t seem to fit Nair’s character in the movie at all. Pity

And, the music video of Adiye — “Enna enge nee kootitupore” to me definitely conjures up an image of the heroine walking in front, the hero behind, climbing mountains – that kind of a thing. Instead, we have the hero doing cartwheels in the desert with the heroine looking on. And Anbin Vaasale was demoted to the end, and it unfortunately invoked some mirth watching Arvind Swamy lip-sync self-righteously to it, marching with his Lord.

The two twists in the tale are definitely predictable, especially when you have been told in no uncertain terms that Arjun is the devil himself.  The climax happens in a boat thrashed by the sea, with Arjun hanging by the rope, and Gautam and Arvind Swamy holding two ends of it. It’s all very well if worked out abstractly, but the film fails to deliver when you treat them as real characters.

Also, why is Arjun trying to kill Nair ? Simply to prove a point to himself ? And when Arvind Swamy decides to make him drown, he pleads with him first, and then quickly begins to taunt him for losing. This sort of a thing is a huge deterrent against even thinking that these guys are supposed to be real people.

And the devil lying flat on the wave beaten ship yelling exhaustedly that he is beaten may be a very desirable ending, but it makes for a very tiresome watch.

Finally, the end sequence with Gautam and Thulsi in the hospital is very reminiscent of Alaipayuthe’s climax. [Or is it just me :P]

So, on the whole, what ? You can watch it once, it is definitely not cringe worthy. But it is not great.



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