Director: M. Manikandan Cast: Vignesh, Ramesh, Iyshwarya Rajesh

Kakka-Muttai-Poster

This is an important moment for Tamil cinema and its audience. We have here a film, one that is from an almost extinct species here, which could well be called one of those extremely rare films that contribute to world cinema from Tamil Nadu. The film is now left for the Tamil audience’s response after garnering widely positive response in festivals around the world.

The title ‘Crow’s Egg’ makes way for deeper multi-dimensional meanings from the moment your encounter with the film starts. At first, it seems it just refers to two little boys called ‘Kaaka Muttai’ and they even prefer to identify themselves that way. Later those two words become symbols that reflect different layers in the film, the theories in it and so on. How many more surprises does the ‘Crow’s Egg’ hold within?

Strengths:
Every single thing.

Content:
With the sharp, brilliant screenplay it boasts of, the film is an absolute joyride. There should be a ‘one-line story’ that you could possibly have heard by now, and that, is precisely the story of the entire film. The film strikes you with its get-at-able line; it only rides on visuals of two little boys, their daily activities, trivial events of their unnoticed lives. At first these happenings look trite, but as the film takes you in, the later parts when these events become scenes with deeper connections to the story, are pure magic.

It is not just a tale of brotherhood and destitution; the film has more, it registers effortlessly the vast differences between the extreme ends of the Indian society, the priority-fuelled media, collective-individual psychology, survival of the fittest and much more. You see a boy placing fifteen rupees in coins on his mother’s palm as she carefully counts them one by one. The next scene opens with an entrepreneur grabbing stacks of cash from his bag and offering it casually to another, saying it has 8 bundles. These details are not imposed campaigns on morals and social issues but just pass off as habitual events of life.

There are few main characters, or do you say people, in the film. The film happens in fewer locations-a slum on sewage-turned-river banks, the railway tracks nearby, on the facades of a pizza shop. A few people, their painstaking routine lives, and truckloads of realism- and that completes ‘Kaaka Muttai’. This uncomplicated, realistic approach brings the film close to your hearts.

(The film has no intermission. It is suddenly stopped midway, the lights are switched, for a 15 minute break. Filmmaker Balu Mahendra once commented on intermissions this way- “It is something created by a merchant to sell his tea and snacks. It is completely a businessman’s invention. Why should a filmmaker adjust himself to that?”)

The characters:
Up next, the film introduces some characters that will take you more than a lifetime to forget. The Kaaka Muttai duo, their mom, their grandmother- the aaya, the railway track worker pazharasam, the petty thieves duo, the munchkin gang that mocks the Kaaka Muttai boys every now and then, the pizza shop owner, his friend. Watch closely, and you find the characters representing the suppressed lot have no names, including the protagonists. They have no place, no proper address.

These characters conflict the general mind set, they look way too immature, and at first they even make you wonder. Only later, you understand these people are indeed the ones with no conflicts, the unworldly ones that are uncomplicated at all levels. Efforts to understand or analyze them should turn futile. In fact, you can break the whole film down with the structure of the traditional ‘Crow and fox’ story. The characters can be placed easily under any of these three categories- the crow, the fox, and the old lady.

The movie:
This is pure, unadulterated cinema. That is indeed an awkward usage, but that is how it is, welcome to Tamil cinema. Also looking at all the absurd films categorized as parallel cinema here, this usage shouldn’t look so strange. Manikandan is a filmmaker, not just a director. He is one who can certainly be called a new wave filmmaker, though so far, the prime accomplishment of the new wave in Tamil cinema has been in giving an innovative coating to the clichéd commercial films.

He is the writer, cinematographer and the director. Right from the opening frame, when the boy wakes up in the middle of the night to change his pants, Manikandan’s cinematography takes us into all those intended confined spaces, narrow lanes and the congested lifestyle of the people in the film. There is no embellishment; the film is filled with strait, cramped frames that take us into a life of limited or no space. With only tin sheets for roofs, houses looking smaller than luxury cars, things scattered everywhere, streets that look like mazes, art is another department that blends you in with the life in the movie. In parts the film, a few scenes and characters remind us of Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.

This is one of late editor Kishore’s final films. As said earlier, the makers haven’t focused much on garnishing. Kishore’s editing is so tight and crisp; it denies us a moment to draw a deep breath. The lack of space is reflected in his style. Only those scenes when the visuals slow down with soothing music in the background to buildup the situation are the ones where you get some time to relax. Towards the end there seems to be a lag in the film. Only later do we realize it is just our reaction to the sudden change of scenario to wider space and broader perspectives.

In a film that chiefly relies on the background sounds and live ambience, GV Prakash Kumar’s part is tricky. He maintains things simple, the background music adds focus to scenes that change the course of the film. Songs just pass off as supplements to the visuals. The lyrics emphasize the inner meanings of the title Kaaka Muttai. However, sometimes these songs and a few clichéd dialogues affect the otherwise realistic flow of the film. One wonders if the film was screened in festivals worldwide in the same format.

Now, it is time to express our gratitude for a few things that were absent in the film. Thank you, for not selecting odd-for-the-subject people, boasting of how they were blackened, by make-up or lying in the hot sun for hours. Thank you, for not portraying the people in the film as gawky, ungraceful individuals, claiming penitence. Thank you, for not making it a melodrama trying to make us run out of tissues in under 2 hours. Thank you, for not making it a campaigning film, with fiery dialogues and imposed scenarios. The film’s strength lies in its realistic approach of portraying things as they are.

This film is for…
The film has no such boundaries. People of all ages- children, oldies, adolescents, the mid-aged people, the youth, people of all social statuses, the film is for everyone. With a gripping flow and fine quality aesthetics, it takes you in for a complete, satisfying cinema experience. In fact, it only has the structure of a normal Tamil commercial film. It is the core of the film and the finesse in filmmaking that makes it a world-class experience. The film moves on with a tint of comedy throughout, only later do you realize the irony- these are situations that register pain, that pose serious questions, and leave an everlasting impact.

A few years from now, the place for Tamil cinema in the world cinema map, the bold efforts of producers like Dhanush and Vetrimaran, honest, uncompromised films from ‘filmmakers’ like Manikandan, all depend on one single point- the support rendered by the Tamil audience.

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About Author

Mahesh Raghavan

Mahesh Raghavan is a film buff and independent short filmmaker from Chennai. His interest for films of all genres and languages has grown over the years. One film a day is his thumb rule.

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One Response to “Kaaka Muttai”

  1. Aj Dhinesh G says:

    Review was detailed and good. But whats your view about the climax.. Isn’t that a compromise ?

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