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Katradhu Thamizh - Movie Review

Warning: Heavy spoilers

Some of the aspects that stayed in my thought cloud after I saw the move - confused screenplay, erratic lead performances, unnecessary comedy track, fluent photography and a sense of forced anti-convention. The movie begins by chronicling a series of events which get the audience believe that this is 'the making of a psychopath'. Half-way through the second half the story steers off-course as if the producer wanted an important message urgently stuffed, the screenplay clears the hero of his psychopath image and goes on a drive against the evils of capitalism and the lifestyle of the upper class without clearly substantiating the need for such a change. This is the first effort as writer/director for Ram Subbu and he leaves an impression - but what kind of an impression is that?

Prabhakar is a Tamil (should I write Thamizh?) graduate who works as a teacher for the elementary grade in Chennai. Because of the decline in morality and partly due to our corrupt social system he is humiliated, frustrated, teased and tantalized. He meets disappointment in almost every corner of his life - even his attempt at suicide fails. All the time the thought of Anandi, his childhood friend and later-day lover keeps him going. At one point when he is driven to his limits, he accidentally kills a railway employee and sees that everybody around him in the railway station stares at him with a fear that he finds as veneration. He leaves the city, comes back after two years and turns into a serial killer. When he finds Anandi through chance, he calls it quits and plans to go back to his hometown. The movie's climax follows a method adapted by self-claimed serious movies in the recent past that's very predictable and juvenile. There are very obvious logical flaws about his possession of gun, his public killings and the police being portrayed as dunces in their pursuit of him, but I won't dwell on them.

I suspect Jeeva will receive a state award for his performance in this movie as Prabhakar. There are times when he's good and there are times when his action follows a pattern that Indian cinema has categorically allotted for the mentally disturbed: shivering hands, shaking head, unstable body, suddenly speaking in high pitches, streaks of thought clarity, etc. Jeeva fits the bill. The new face Anjali does a very clean job of what is expected of her. Special mention goes to the photographer Kadhir. Most of the frames have a pervasive dull yellow light that signifies the dryness of his life and sorrowful events. The only shots filled with greenery are his childhood days, which helps us understand that he desperately wants to go back to those days. With so many close-up shots, he conveys the realism of the character: Prabhakar just doesn't mouth those words, but also feels them whole-heartedly. There are so many shots that exhibit Ram's sparks and I'm happy that he has chosen a story and narrative that's breaking Tamil movie conventions. That's it for the review; the following is a kind of thematic analysis and a rebuttal of the writer's points.

I'll list some of the events in the life of Prabhakar that slowly turn him into psychopath:
  • After graduation, to earn a Rs.2000/month job as a teacher he has to do the household chores of that school correspondent from buying monthly pads for the house lady to vegetables.
  • A local police inspector has a crush on a woman. When the inspector spots Prabhakar next to her, as a sign of showing off his power, he drags him in front of his students into the jeep and remands him into custody for a day.
  • When his suicide attempt fails, the police slap a drug trafficking case on him.
  • Prabhakar's neighbour asks him to write a love letter for a certain woman called Thenmozhi because he's incapable of beautiful language; later Prabhakar is told that the nieghbour succeeded in tasting Thenmozhi and he will need another love letter for another woman.
  • His moderately intelligent college roommate ends up in a lucrative job while he has to scourge for a few hundreds.
  • This factor isn't highlighted, but I'll list it anyway: he loses his mother at the age of 7 in an accident and his beloved Tamil teacher (who inspires him to take up Tamil in college) in an accident when he's 17.

Except for the fifth point which involves financial differences and the sixth point which makes the protagonist lonely, all others (and many more unlisted) concern the society's moral depravity. Now, if this moral turpitude is the reason for making him hate humanity, there's a certain logic in buying the theory that as a psychopath he's against unethical people. In a beach, he kills a couple for public caressing. That's in line with the theory. But when he delivers his supposedly final punch lines, he forgets why he became what he is in the first place. He goes on a rampage against the haves and have-nots. He issues a warning that if you wear a branded glass or a branded jean, that's enough reason for you to get killed. He specifically rants against the software industry which has made the non-software salaried class' life difficult. He says there are two kinds of people: 'the ones inside an ATM and the ones outside it; the ones inside Spencer Plaza and the ones outside it'. What is he driving at? The money factor doesn't play a big role at all in transforming the simple Prabhakar into a sociopath. This is nothing but the director's foolish misdirected anger at the suddenly rising wealth of a certain class.

We live in an open economy where you make or break your life. Instead of deriving inspiration from someone like Ambani, what this movie tries to say is that the poor guy who throws stones at Ambani's car is actually a good guy and it's the society that's responsible for all inequalities. When a movie promotes such arrogantly foolish ideas, everybody ends up paying. If such ideas click, it will lead to a downward spiral. It is in light of such misguided but talented directors like Ram Subbu, filmmakers like Maniratnam appear like visionaries, like gods. In a society which has had a stream of movies that have always portrayed the working class as good and oppressed and the ruling class as villains, Maniratnams's 'Guru' is really a towering achievement. It clearly says: 'The world is waiting for you. Go ahead and make your life'. 'Kathradhu Thamizh' is the kind of movie I would NOT want most of our teenagers or anyone without original thinking to see.

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12 Responses to “Katradhu Thamizh - Movie Review”

  1. # Blogger Suresh Kumar

    hi,

    I was totally disappointed by the trailer and when i saw one stupid scene, where he meets one of his class mates in a software company who earns 2 lakhs and talks about how he taught him to speak in english and blah blah, i thought the movie would be a tatal mesh.. but again the reviews are mixed, most say it is a must watch once.... i don't understand...  

  2. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Suresh,
    It's usually a bad idea to judge a movie by its trailers. As a reviewer, I'd rate the movie up above many Tamil movies (which doesn't necessarily qualify this as a great movie) but as a citizen of this society, I'm frustrated at the hints this movie provides.  

  3. # Anonymous prakash

    Prasad,

    I thought i'll write in detail as to why i differ from you on this movie...may be i'll do that in my blog some time later.

    my quick response would be something like this :

    I agree that the movie obviously has many flaws and too many loose ends. The narration could have been more taut.

    But, the reason why i liked this movie is same as the reason why you chose to hate. I and Prabhakar strongly believe that the growing discrepancies in the income level of individuals is dangerous to the society we live in. I'm afraid that this may not be the right forum to elaborate on and also i'm not fully equipped to defend Prabhakar's stand.

    What prabhakar does - to prove his point - is irrelevant to me, but he has point -a valid one at that.  

  4. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Prakash,
    A rich neighbour is always a cause for concern. In one of the scenes, Karuanas explains that the best he can do to his neighbours new bike is to ruin it, for which the protagonist remains silent and the audience roars. This is not just pointing out the problem, but an instant of compounding the problem. As I previously mentioned, Ram uses the script to channelize his unfounded anger at the rising class. If this movie becomes a hit in the B and C centres the current economic disparity might take ugly turns.

    The director makes a point about inequality and by portraying the protagonist as a psychopath, he precludes logic. Fine. But it's the kind of illogic that sends wrong signals. When the protagonist suggests that young men misbehaving with young women wearing tee-shirts with teasing/inviting lines is justified he implies that he wants a Taliban. I saw audience sitting towards the screen (can be assumed to form the lower economic strata) applauding head over heels. Though there is a scene that shows the other side, that's weakly constructed and doesn't get it's required attention. It is exactly this approach by the director that is degenerating: an unbalanced treatment. Ram Subbu has left enough clues here and there for the keen mind to find and fit into the picture, but the wrong messages are highlighted in bold font.

    If ideas from this movie clicks, the lower class are going think that they're not responsible for their position and it's the system that has kept them there. That's why I don't want an dull uninquiring mind seeing this movie. It might actually kill any enthusiasm the kid may have to take on the world.

    PS: The growth of software industry along with a lot of other sectors have indirectly opened up immense opportunities for the ones who were doing average business. Why not dwell on that?  

  5. # Blogger Suresh Kumar

    Prasad - I will definitely watch the movie. But you had a very interesting point in the last comment... how other buisness were gaining indirectly becoz of software industry.... 100% true... Even an autorickshaw guy chargess more if he sees a IT tag around your neck... the transportation of goods between cities, lot of new companies which pays all our bills, multiplex, shopping malls, many private service agencies who book movie tickets for us, who pay bills of ur etc., wouldbn't have succeeded without software industry...it would be reallly interesting to see something made on this like how a IT guys salary splits and reaches 100s of people around indirectly, which otherwise wouldn't have been possible... we need a indian 'Guillermo Arriaga' to do that...  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    A few weeks ago, a friend of my father stopped by our house and we were chatting...he owns a taxi/cab business...when my father asked how his business was, he replied, "Sir, IT vandha apparam engalukku enna sir kavalai...pramaadhamaa povudhu..."

    While such anecdotes do not *prove* anything, they do convey something...

    Cheers
    Varaha.  

  7. # Blogger Prasanna

    Prasad,

    Im part of the 'happening' indian IT industry, drawing a salary more than that I need. I simply loved the movie because 1)The dicrepancies highlighted IS real 2)Im tired of Sivakasi/Malaikotai kind of movies.

    In the USA, a s/w engineer is just another person. The curse of indian students is, they do a BE/MBA because that is the only profession paying in $$. The scope for entrepreneurs(in IT or any other field) is zilch(though the situation is slowly changing).
    And the point about house rents is valid. Are the lower/lower middle class bound to live in the outskirts?  

  8. # Anonymous karthikeyan

    Your reivew shows how immatured you are... i wish you will never face any hard situations in life and stay like this forever.... wishing you happy blogging...  

  9. # Anonymous Anonymous

    This comment is for Suresh Kumar.
    Mr. Suresh Kumar,
    after reading you comments on katradhu tamizh and your description of the college mate meeting scene in his office, i got to something to tell you,
    YOU ARE A BIG IMMATURE PIECE OF SHIT!!

    GOD  

  10. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi Prasanna
    You're Right
    SUPPORT YOU!!:)  

  11. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Director / Actor Ram Subbu is a womanizer in real life. He is the most disgusting person. He tries using his identity as a Director from Chennai to win females. Please do not add him on Facebook he will send messages to all your female friends - nonsense and vulgar. So please be aware. I have solid proof and evidence.  

  12. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hi Prasad Venkatamana(Author of this blog)

    I respect your review. I know that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Let me express mine also.

    At the outset, I should confess that I am still overwhelmed by the movie. My only regret is not watching the movie in a theater at the time of its release, because I was out of TN then. Anyways, this is what I have to say.

    You have written that this should not be watched by the young guys, and that this movie is the result of the director's angst at a certain rising wealthy class. I beg to differ, in view of the following points :
    1. The director's angst is very much real. Am myself an NIT and IIM graduate, and I know how greed does not lead to the betterment of the society. I can cite many examples here, but the biggest of them all, the global recession of 2008-09 was caused by greed of some elite finance professionals. To think that the movie was released much before that is in itself a tribute to the director : It is as if he foresaw the recession!
    2. Cinema is a medium. It is an art. It is the director's right, in a way, because he does not force the movie upon others, or ask the audience to conform to his views. Thus, your bashing of the director's views is entirely uncalled for. I agree that Indian audience, as a whole, needs to grow up when it comes to appreciate cinema as an expression of ones creativity and not look for a message in every movie.

    I again emphasize that I fully respect your view. However, I was forced to post my above musings because of the awesome and disturbing impact the movie had on me. And my decision to check on my greed every once in a while.

    Looking forward to Ram's next movie.....

    A movie lover.  

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