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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie review: An experimental film that deserves our attention

Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie review: An unconventional narrative that focuses on the working class from a new lens.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by S Subhakeerthana | Chennai | Published: December 6, 2019 4:25:04 pm
Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu review Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie review: Dinesh delivers a superbly restrained performance

Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie cast: Dinesh, Anandhi, Riythvika, Munishkanth Ramdoss
Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie director: Athiyan Athirai
Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu movie rating: 3.5 stars

Last year, Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Productions moved the audience with the sensational Pariyerum Perumal. This year, the Kabali director is back with another production, Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu. Selvam (Dinesh) works as a lorry driver in a scrap shop. He works quite hard but isn’t paid properly. Baasha (Marimuthu) exploits his employees. You guess what is coming next. You have seen it in several films that address caste-based issues—the divide between capitalists and the working class. This sort of humiliation runs through Kadaisi Gundu as a separate thread. Here, filmmaker Athiyan Athirai uses the scrap shop as the metaphor for exploitation. You get an idea of how a few sections of people are still treated poorly. Athiyan Athirai brilliantly narrates the social and economic conditions of the middle and working classes. The film out-rightly criticises the bourgeoisie’s hold over their employees and condemns the social inequities.

The title may give you an impression that Kadaisi Gundu is a ‘serious’ film, but it is half-thriller and half-black comedy. Kadaisi Gundu discusses politics as much as the working class—in an attempt to show the oppression of the labourers by their ‘owners’, the men dressed in white. The film also incorporates an interesting premise—the aftermath of wars. You are shown how a bomb, the remains of World War II, accidentally finds a place in the scrap shop. Initially, Selvam thinks it’s something else, but once he gets to know what it is, the movie picks up pace.

In parallel, Tanya (Riythvika), an investigative journalist, tries to expose the scam behind the disposal of these bombs where both the police and the Government are involved. You are shown the backstory of the bombs as they get disposed in the sea. This is what sets Kadaisi Gundu apart from other caste-based narratives. Further, Kadaisi Gundu reiterates that we shouldn’t stand by and watch bombs being thrown at other countries, as it can wipe out lakhs of people, even after hundreds of years. To sum up, everyone is the same—irrespective of class and caste differences—when a disaster occurs. To be more precise, nature’s wrath doesn’t classify people as rich and poor.

Besides, there is a love track between Selvam and Chithra (Anandhi), a school teacher. Anandhi gets a character similar to what she played in Pariyerum Perumal. She is from a dominant caste. Her family members try to kill her because they can’t stand Chithra getting married to Selvam. It is here that Athiyan Athirai establishes the tone of Kadaisi Gundu, where caste could mean ‘life’ for many. In a lot of places, we see the tone of Pariyerum Perumal or what we call the ‘Ranjith style of making’ as the film wages a war on the caste hierarchy at large.

I liked the way Selvam gets introduced to the audience. Dinesh is convincing as the lorry driver. Though Selvam drives a lorry at nights, he’s really not alone. He talks to the stars, the skies, his father (who’s no more) and of course, Anandhi (on the phone). Much of Kadaisi Gundu’s moments are devoted to the relationship between Selvam and Chithra. It is a beautiful relationship that encourages the similarities and appreciates the differences. Dinesh delivers a superbly restrained performance and takes us into the character of Selvam. The hilarity is, of course, courtesy Munishkanth Ramadoss, whose presence works to the film’s advantage.

Another aspect that stands out is Tenma’s (the composer had collaborated with Ranjith for The Casteless Collective) music. It’s like the voice for ‘the voiceless’. The songs and the background score of Kadaisi Gundu sound fresh. It has a country feeling with a Western touch to it. The audience could connect the music with the film’s premise—the struggle of the oppressed. In some places, Tenma infuses hip-hop touch with gaana. The lyrics convey so much meaning like the dialogues. Every line has a purpose. There is a therukoothu song too. But the difference is Athiyan uses it as a platform to address ‘people’s problems’. Traditionally, the art form is associated only with telling stories like Mahabharata and Ramayana, set against the mythological or religious backdrop. Watch out for that terrific scene where a cop mistakes a bomb for the local deity. It’s simply hilarious.

I think for the first time in a mainstream Tamil cinema, we hear a woman character addressing someone “Thozhar”. This is the first step to treat fellow human beings as equals. To my surprise, the director called me the same when I had met him.

However, Kadaisi Gundu has John Vijay playing a corrupt officer. The actor was accused of sexual harassment in the wake of the #Metoo movement. Towards the end, we get a Nobel laureate addressing the gathering on a stage as a part of World Peace Day celebrations. Even then, Kadaisi Gundu doesn’t seem like a lecture. As we leave the theater, we take home a relevant and effective message—waging a war is no solution, but peace negotiation is the ultimate way. As the director rightly points out, “Aayudham mattum koodadhu; pesi dhaan theerthukanum.”

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