Naan Kadavul – Tamil Movie Review

Written by Ronin

I went to watch Naan Kadavul with high expectations. The expectations were unavoidable, since it has taken three years to make the movie. It burned through the cash of three producers including Zee TV. And since Director Bala has earned a name for himself with his earlier offbeat movies.

Arya in Naan Kadavul

Arya in Naan Kadavul

The movie started with a Doordarshan made documentary movie feel on Kasi, at the banks of the river Ganges. The movie covered the devotee ocean in Kasi, pyres for the dead and the Aghori Sadhus (Sadhus who claim they are god). None of the shots were spectacular, than the Aghori pictures seen years ago in Frontline or India Today, covering the secret sect of Sadhus. There were no images of the sadhus eating dead corpses or floating corpses.

The director’s influence watching too many 80s and 90s movies is  obvious. The unhealthy father, crying mother and sad looking sister completed the picture. When he wanted to build a character or convey something quickly, a song was introduced with images running in the background. The fact the songs were in Sanskrit, makes them non-understandable. Not sure, how long we are going to cover our helplessness in conveying characters through screen play! And in one of the early songs, I took my bathroom break.

I came back. The hero Arya looks like a Model although he is a Agori Sadhu. This was in tune with Vikram with streaked hair in Pithamagan. He speaks in a “Dark Knight’s” voice most of the movie. The background music was very garish in the early part of the movie . I felt the drums, specifically the Hi-hat(the one that looks like a silver plate on the drum set) was abused, whenever a suspense or shock track was played(reminding 80s again). If the director wants to make an international mark, he is better off choosing a different music director in his next movie..

This is when the movie leaves the world of Kasi, the sadhu’s parents and his characterization. Director moves into the uncaptured world of deformed beggars, their kidnappers and handlers in a small temple-town. It goes deeper into their dingy shelter in an unfinished temple. And this is where the humor in the movie starts. As the deformed are kidnapped and forced to beg and collect money for their handlers, they go about their life with a rare humor. The humor is very rustic, natural and mind-blowing. The characters parody and tease politics, god, cops, cinema and their own life. The director is a genius and his keen observation and reproduction of life in village is impeccable..The shock, revulsion, despair and sympathy you undergo as you watch the characters are unavoidable. The success of the movie lies in making you appreciate the humor and their life beyond this emotions.

The movie gets a life of its own at this point and makes us forget our surrounding after this point. The movie is stolen by each and every one of the beggar actors here. The heroine of the movie completely steals the show from hero, Arya. She most probably might win national award for her role. The movie deals with how the Agori hero and the blind beggar girl deal with sudden developments in their life. The crisp and few dialogues are appreciated. Few characters like the beggar trader from Kerala and beggar handler are built with extraordinary detail (for ex, they are shown as religious).

I have to mention that the movie ends with a sad note with the girl meeting death rather than deal with her life. It is unfortunate that a sadhu with hints of supernatural powers (he can recognize evil men), recommending death as a solution to problems (he could have taken her to Kasi, when he returns). But for some reason, the end fits the story well. May be unintentionally to indicate that he is not god himself..

It is not a totally non-commercial film. In many ways, it is a super-hero film with a Batman kind of hero, who is nonchalant, rude, violent, loner and reclusive. He just calls himself god, instead of Batman.

I hear complains about lack of screenplay or story line in the movie. Do we need childhood lovers or mafia or happy marriage(not a reference to Slumdog Millionaire) in every movie? There have been movies on one day incidents, that have won Oscars.

It is Bala’s misfortune that he wont be able to ply his art as well in Hindi/English as in tamil movies, as his strength is keen reproduction of rural tamil life. But it is tamil-film fans blessing, that he is tied to tamil movies. The director takes tamil movies to the next level, again.

ps: If Shekhar Kapur is reading this, he should definitely checkout this movie.

Other Good Reviews in Tamil:

http://www.athishaonline.com/2009/02/blog-post_07.html

http://www.luckylookonline.com/2009/02/blog-post_06.html

http://rprajanayahem.blogspot.com/2009/02/blog-post_08.html

16 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. The Music Release could have included Audio Cassettes. They just did CDs. Lakhs of poor people are desperate to take cheap tapes, but went disappointed.

  2. I did not know Agori philosophy states that death can be a punishment..That does not make sense..How can death be a punishment if it is a relief of soul from human form as ..If death can be punishment, everyone can choose their own punishment…And is not that against our philosophy too..

    Also the agori keeps saying that everything and everyone is Siva..Wonder if one siva is allowed to punish another siva..

    Another one is if he can attain moksha in human form, why cant he bless her moksha in human form rather than in death form..

    Does Agori philosopy states what you said.. or is it our directors formula as shown in his earlier movies?

    Btw am a sincere fan of Bala’s movies..Here are some info on their philosophy:

    In essence, Aghoris base their beliefs on two principles. First, that Shiva is perfect. Second, that Shiva is responsible for everything; every rock, tree, animal, and even every thought. Due to this, everything that exists must be perfect, and to deny the perfection of anything would be to deny the Gods.[citation needed] Aghoris eat any form of food and toxicant, engage in a variety of sexual practices, ritually and otherwise and also allegedly meditate on dead bodies.[3] They believe in all opposites are ultimately illusory..

    So they dont think good and bad exist, pure and dirty exist..and these are illusionary..

  3. Ronin:

    The movie talks about two tenets of the Aghori philosophy: to those who do not deserve to live, death is the punishment and to those who cannot (or find it difficult to) live, death is a boon. Added to that, whether one agrees or not, the Aghoris have the power to releive souls from the cycle of birhts by giving them Moksha. The three killings in the movie are in line with the tenets of the Aghori philospophy. In addition, the hero also grants mokhsa to the heroine after killing her.

    So, at least philosophically, the director (or story writer) is consistent.

  4. don’t agree – if you go with the charuonline’s arguments, there should be no music for any song. The song should be sung as if it is sung by the pitchaikarargal in a Madras electric train.

    The pitchai pathiram enthi vanthen – song has lyrics which actually has a lot of philosophy behind it. The poet refers to the body as the pitchai pathiram. Charuonline guy’s argument is superficial.

    The music in slumdog is probably ordinary to poor. Praising that and comparing that with Naan Kadavul (which was probably above average) shows that the reviewer does not know much about music.

    And of course, sprinkling in names like Kurosawa etc does not add any credibility to a review.

  5. That was memorable song no doubt. I was commenting about the background music and using songs to convey someone’s character. Also please checkout Charuonline.com to get a detailed review on the background music..

    Regards,

  6. I thought the movie’s strength was music – otherwise it was a pretty ordinary movie. The music (songs and background score) made the movie better than what it really was.

    The Om Shivom song was the highlight of the movie. If you cannot understand Sanskrit, it still does not take away the beauty of the song.

  7. I agree, it was a simple good vs bad movie..That’s what I meant as the movie stepped into an philosophical quagmire by touching on saying he has powers to give motcham, agori etc..

  8. Dear Ronin,

    There is no moral judgement made by the movie whether he is a pure Sivaite or Hindu. In fact, the base of the movie, is still the age old – good vs evil – so I guess it should be seen as more an off beat film rather than an authority on life or hinduism :)This movie has brought into light the unknown side to us

  9. Here is a review from popular writer Charu:

    http://charuonline.com/March09/NaanKadavul.html

    The interesting coincidence is that his review agrees with many of the views reflected by my review.

    Regards,

    Ronin

  10. Prakash:

    He is shown as a Agori worshipping Siva and telling everone is siva..So why would one Shiva kill another Shiva. or why would blood flow. Also Saivism quotes the body as the temple..And why would he ask her to leave the temple..So If he can be a god and blissful state staying in human body..Why does the girl have to leave the body to attain the state..

    That’s the philosophical quagmire..I don’t understand..Religion is ripe with contradictory verses from different writers..So someone can quote another writer..The end does not gel well with some Saivite/Siva concepts..

    If any saint or Sidda(calling themselves god again)or sufi or muslim baba or christian saint recommends the solution is very very doubtful..That’s why I said it was fictional..

    Regards,

    Ronin

  11. I just came back after watching the movie. It has taken tamil film to new level & shown the world the real India with its hidden secrets.

    Death to that blind girl is a blessing, in this movie’s context.

  12. I agree..

    It would have made sense if the creator dies in the movie, instead of killing the unfortunate. The director steps into a philosophical quagmire tying the story to philosophy.

  13. Ronin, Kindly recall my article on Poverty and hunger.

    “If some must beg and live
    Let the creator himself beg and die.”

    That is Thirukkural.

    Naan Kadavul relates the Philosophy of God with the unfortunate handicapped people and beggars, with no certain conclusion.

  14. I asked myself the same question. Why is suicide/death chosen as a solution in our movies. It may be a cultural thing..though unfortunate one..

  15. Well written review. Yet to watch Naan Kadavul, but why is it that all of Bala’s movies have a tragic end?. Why is it that a quality movie should always punish/torture the audience in the end?

    It is hard for the average western audience to appreciate Indian movies because of the heavy cultural and linguistic flavor presented. While anyone can appreciate the technical aspects, it is hard/impossible for western audience to appreciate the subtle realities of Indian/Tamil culture portrayed very well in some of our movies.

  16. Sounds like an interesting movie

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