(jka) “Kadal” is the Tamil word for “Sea” and is a film drama which was released on 1 February 2013. This movie is directed and produced by Maniratnam (“Roja”, “Dil Se” and many others) while music was composed by A.R. Rahman. Newcomer Gautham Karthik plays the lead role in a film on Christian fishermen in Tamil Nadu whose faith leads to the superiority of humanity. Our Chennai-based correspondent Jayannathann Karunaiti talks about more than a movie.
“Let me start with the ad films that were played before movie titles at GV Cinemas in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu”. The news ads for National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), shows the desperate need for creativity among government based public relation offices. The syntax and the template of the ads are so shamelessly the same that I can recall the mid 90’s ads for oral contraceptives in Doordarshan, which once monopolized the broadcasting industry in India.
Anyway, am so happy that there were no Vicco Vajradanti and Vicco Turmeric ads before Kadal Movie…
Back to “Kadal”: Maniratnam’s movies always evoke a loud “boo” from supposed mass-oriented audiences for the characters of his movies are usually upper middle class intelligentsia, who speak in measured tone and this pattern is fitted on to characters from other social classes as well.
This cliche is broken, for the dialogues are written by acclaimed writer Jeyamohan and the screenplay is jointly sketched by Maniratnam and Jeyamohan. They bring out the raw energy through usage of slang that is prevalent in Christian fisherman villages of South Tamil Nadu.
The initial scenes in Seminary and the dialogues sets the landscape for the story of “Kadal”, which is essentially a clash of ideologies between the God seeking Sam (Aravind Swamy) and the self proclaimed son of Satan, Bergmans (Arjun Sarja). The dialogue of Arjun, wherein he says, he came to Seminary just to escape poverty does make the intent of the antagonist much clearer and also reflects the realism. The first 15 minutes of the movie essentially portrays what to expect from the whole movie itself. The love affair of Maniratnam with “Raavanan” is not yet over for, Arjun is portrayed as a well learned biblical scholar who engages in wishful sins.
The hero of the movie, Thomas (Gautham Karthik), is introduced as a bastard son and the social interactions push him towards becoming anti-social. The scenes in village transports the audience there as an observer and makes you realize the effort, the director has put in artist selection for supporting and background roles. One of the background roles which get etched in your mind is a fisher-woman who hawks in the market and picks up a duel with Sam.
Religion itself has to play a major role in the movie and the reality of how the religious functions are commoditized is brought out. The tape recorder which Sam uses to connect the people with God travels along with the movie till the very end. For the first time, Maniratnam completely deals with people who live in the fringes of society and morality.
The immersive experience that the movie offers can be attributed to the picturesque cinematography of Rajiv Menon who has unobtrusively sewed vast unending landscape of ocean and ocean associated land and the haunting background score of A.R. Rahman. ‘Magudi’ song by Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam, a Sinhalese Rapper sets the tone for the movie in either halfs of the movie, by showing how the character of Thomas (Gautham Karthik) develops itself from child to brash teen and his experiences with sins.
The milestone scenes includes the scene were the young Thomas breaks down before the tape recorder, the first experience of ocean by Thomas, the scene were Sam is implicated in the sin of flesh, when Bergmans proclaims himself as Satan before Sam, when Thomas experiences the first blood of birth on his hands, the mental torment of Thomas when he tries to explain about what is sin to Beatrice , the climax in mid of rough seas and of course the rousing song near the end credits.
One cannot stop admiring the energy in debutant Gautham Karthik and the comeback performances of Aravind Swamy and Arjun Sarja. Beatrice (Thulasi) fits the limited scope offered by the story and Ponvannan as usual brings out a standout performance.
The story can be pushed aside by many as a classic “Truth Alone Triumph” formulaic film, but what makes it stand out is the layered treatment which the makers have brought in to make it more realistic. Though a fairy tale ending, it brings out the grey nature of human, wherein do-gooder saintly father Sam is pushed to kill Bergmans, proclaimed son of Satan Bergman’s inability to kill his estranged daughter Beatrice and the sinner Thomas insistence in saving Bergmans. The movie ends with the supposed angel, Beatrice spending her time in a rehabilitation institution.
Overall, a truly immersive visual, aural experience and watch it for the wonderful acting performances of lead and supporting artists.
And yes, Kadal is not a Romantic movie.
Actors: Arjun Sarja, Aravindswamy, Gautham Karthik, Thulasi Nair, Ponvannan
Directed by: Maniratnam
Editing: A. Sreekar Prasad
Cinematography: Rajiv Menon
Produced by: Madras Talkies
Music Composer: AR Rahman
Released languages: Tamil (as “Kadal”), Telugu (as “Kadali”)