Film: Kadal (Tamil)
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Gautam Karthick, Arvind Swamy, Arjun Sarja, Thulasi Nair, Lakshmi Manchu
Verdict: A poignant film
The thing with heading to watch a Mani Ratnam movie is the fact that you go loaded with expectations. You expect the story to be thought-provoking; the actors literally living out their roles and then there’s the visual imagery that you expect will be nothing less than poetic. You know what, Kadal lives up to them mostly.
The essence of the movie is presented to you in the first 15 minutes of the movie — when a young, rich Sam Fernando (Arvind Swamy) arrives at a seminary with dreams of becoming a priest, dedicating his life to Jesus when he meets his nemesis Berchmans (Arjun Sarja) who has opted to be a priest as it is the only means to fend his poor family. You realise that where one represents all that’s good, the other represents all that’s bad. And it all comes to a head when brother Sam catches Berchmans in a transgression that ends with the latter avowing revenge, come what may.
With that story as the backgrounder, the director then proceeds to introduce the other important cog in the wheel: Thomas, an orphan, who first meets Father Sam as a young kid on the streets.
The two develop a familial bond that grows stronger as Thomas turns into a young adult without a care in the world — enter debutant Gautam Karthick with a happy introduction song et al.
The first half of the movie glides smoothly with happy songs, breezy dialogues between an ensemble of actors and the beginning of a sweet love story between Thomas and Beatrice (debutante Thulasi Nair).
The turning point of the film comes when Father Sam finds Berchmans (13 long years after that unfortunate night) wounded and left to die in the sea. That meeting and its aftermath ends up shaking up the lives of these individuals. Thomas even deserts Father Sam to work for Berchmans.
So, who wins this fight of good versus evil? Where does love fit in? Does love triumph all? Mani Ratnam’s movies have always made symbolic references to the Indian epics and this time around Kadal (written by Jeyamohan) takes inspiration from the Holy Bible. So if Berchmans represents Satan, Beatrice represents an angel who — to quote a dialogue — leads one from darkness to light. That said, we’ll quickly add that Kadal is not a commentary on any particular religion. It is a movie that just takes the eternal conflict between good and bad, god and the devil and places it in a contemporary, extremely scenic setting made even more beautiful by Rajeev Menon’s cinematography.
The actors deliver their jobs. It’s so good to see the handsome actor, Arvind Swamy, after so long turning in a nuanced performance as the pious Father Sam. Arjun Sarja delivers an effective performance as ruthless Berchmans. And unlike stereotypical villains in Tamil movies, he doesn’t ham it up and we are thankful for that. The ensemble cast, including Ponvannan and Laksmi Manchu in a brief but unforgettable cameo, does a brilliant job, especially considering they deliver dialogues in a dialect prevalent in coastal Tamil Nadu.
Coming to the debutants, Gautam Karthick and Thulasi Nair manage to recreate a performance that’s almost reminiscent of their parents’ debut movie — Alaigal Oivathillai. Gautam delivers an ace job in the breezy scenes as well as the emotional ones. Thulasi Nair has a winsome smile and in the short role that she has manages to make you smile. These newcomers are definitely ones to watch out for.
The only drawback of the movie might be the fact that it drags towards the end. Else, go and watch Kadal. It is a beautifully made film.