Over the years writer-director A.R.Murugadoss has made an impact with his films in Tamil (and their remakes in Telugu-Stalin and Hindi-Ghajini and Holiday). One may or may not like his films but I guess there is no debate about the fact that he does manage to bring in a variety of subjects with his films, with no film of his so far having any resemblance to any of his previous works. Even in case of an ambitious project like 7 Aum Arivu (2011) while the final outcome wasn’t all that satisfactory, the premise was quite interesting. When Murugadoss and Vijay joined hands for the first time for Thuppakki (2012) what emerged was a good commercial Tamil film which according to me is the best Vijay film since Pokkiri (2007). So with both of them coming back together for Kaththi obviously the expectations were clear and the questions were many.
Would the film turn out to be as good as Thuppakki if not better? Would this turn out to be the Diwali attraction that people were waiting for? While Vijay’s previous attempts at portraying dual roles earlier did not work (Azhagiya Tamil Magan aka ATM and Villu), would Kaththi turn out to be a successful attempt in this regard? Anirudh’s music had already worked its charm well before the release and hence that was one positive aspect to look forward to. While the controversy regarding the film’s release looked set to play spoil sport but it was thankfully resolved at the last minute. Exhausted after a wonderful week attending the Mumbai Film Festival, I couldn’t unfortunately watch Kaththi on the very first day of its release but made sure that I had my tickets booked for day 2. And now that the film has been seen, its time to reflect upon how the film has turned out to be and in the process to look at the answers to the questions I had earlier as well.
Kaththi starts off with a prison breakout in Kolkata as Kathiresan (Vijay) outwits the cops and escapes, while trying to help them nab another convict on the run (Tota Roy Chowdhury). Kathiresan lands in Chennai and takes the help of his friend (Sathish) to fly out to Bangkok but stays back instead in Chennai as he comes across Ankita (Samantha) and loses his heart to her. In a chance situation Kathiresan comes across his lookalike, Jeevanandham and in a quirk of fate, Kathir assumes the identity of Jeeva. Why does he do that and what happens to both of them is what the rest of the film is all about. While Kathir is a convict who’s been to jail many times, Jeeva on the other hand is educated (MSc in Hydrology too 🙂 ) and has a nobel cause that he is fighting for-the rights of the villagers of Thannoothu in South Tamil Nadu. The village which has been facing a severe water shortage over the years apparently has a hidden untapped water source, due to which a cola MNC headed by Chirag (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is desperate to take over the agricultural lands in the village. It doesn’t take too much trouble to deduce the flow of the story, but thankfully Murugadoss does it with reasonable flair.
Make no mistake Kaththi is a true blue Vijay film where he gets to fight, romance the heroine, dance amazingly, mouth some dialogues in his own inimitable style and in the process impress his fans. But thankfully Murugadoss has managed to keep the plot simple yet effective enough for the general audience also to stay connected. The film for some strange reason takes its own sweet time to hook us, nearly 40 minutes actually. But thankfully there’s an arresting moment that comes up on screen when we are least expecting it. From there on the film chugs along merrily, giving Vijay fans quite a high with its interval block. While the basic topic is of villagers demanding the right to use their water resources to focus on farming and not wanting to bow out to MNC’s wanting to set up factories, Murugadoss tries to go way more deeper with his attempt to shake our psyche with a few questions that Jeevanandham/Kathiresan ask in the film.
The best aspect of Kaththi is the action; Anl Arasu’s fight sequences are power charged and bring out a lot of excitement. The fight with the lady assassins masquerading as T.V reporters, and the sequence where he makes use of a bunch of coins using light and darkness alternatively to his advantage are in particular quite impressive. Anirudh’s music is another plus point both in terms of the songs and the BGM, unfortunately the same cannot be said about the placement of the songs. “Selfie Pulla” (lyrics by Madhan Karky, sung by Vijay and Sunidhi Chauhan) which was an instant hit has been inserted at a moment probably just to remind us that Samantha is also present in the film :). “Pakkam Vandhu” (lyrics by Madhan Karky and Hiphop Tamizha, sung by Anirudh and Hiphop Tamizha) is a funky dance track where Vijay grooves like a dream, while “Aathi” (lyrics by Pa.Vijay, sung by Vishal Dadlani and Anirudh) though a nice romantic number is a little badly filmed.
Sreekar Prasad’s expertise with editing is visible with the way the film manages to build up its tempo after a dull start and then maintain its pace till the end. George C.Williams who had impressed with the visuals in Raja Rani, makes an impact here as well, take for example the scenes shot in the tunnel with effective use of light and darkness. The problem with the film is that it does come across as a little too preachy, even passing off as a propaganda film of sorts considering the lead actor’s dalliance with politics of late. Also the way the topic is addressed and certain means to achieve the same can be questionable. But having said that it’s imperative to note that the topic raised in the film is an important one, even making us question ourselves as to how one would react in such situations. Therein lies Murugadoss’ strength, added to it he also knows the pulse of the audience and uses the right tropes to elicit the right response from the audience. For example the usage of the “Nee Yaaro” song (lyrics by Yugabharathi, sung by K.J.Yesudas) right at the very end is timed effectively to tug at our emotions.
Another spot of bother with respect to the film is with the way the romance track has been handled in the film. Samantha virtually has nothing to do in the film and it looks like her inclusion in the film is only to facilitate the songs and ensure that the hero has a romantic interest as well. Now this is really surprising because Murugadoss usually takes care to ensure that the heroines in his films have a reasonable contribution to offer to the film. Satish on the other hand gets far better scope in the film and his scenes with Vijay do keep the audience entertained, though there aren’t interesting gags as such. Neil Nitin Mukesh has to look icy cool yet menacing and remains a thorough bad guy right till the end. The dubbing done for him (Gautham) works quite well and while the performance isn’t anything laudable, Neil Nitin Mukesh at least makes for a refreshing new suave looking villain over here.
Ultimately Kaththi is an out and out Vijay film, a film where he’s looking extremely comfortable making his fans happy albeit with a touch of restraint. Thankfully there are very few scenes where both the characters he portrays (Kathir and Jeeva) are in the same frame, so it is easier for him to carry them out on screen. Murugadoss in his second outing with Vijay seems to have understood how best to use his hero and thus the output is effective to an extent. So yes this seems to be a Diwali entertainer that would appeal to people largely, especially the fans of Vijay. Also Vijay seems to have finally delivered a dual hero film with some style and grace, which is another positive. But I’d still rate Thuppakki as a better film for sure. While Thuppakki had its limitations too, it was a far more taut film, had many good moments and was effectively an entertainer with a lot of chutzpah. Kaththi had the scope to go one up over Thuppakki, but falls short, unfortunately.