Director: M Manikandan
Two slum-kids in Chennai are desperate to get their grimy paws on a slice of pizza. Because it is the shiny prize held up by the clean, well-off people . Because it must be better than the humble `dosai’ their `paati’ (grandma) rustles up for them in the one-room tenement which is the place for sleeping, cooking, bathing and ablutions. Because if they have it, they will also be like the other boys who have toys and eat fancy food for tiffin.
M Manikandan’s National award-winning debut feature is heart-warming. It features children in the lead, but it is not a `children’s film’ in the way we have sadly come to expect : it has a strong message, but it is not preachy, nor does it have a pulpit. Like all good films that children can watch, ‘Kaakkaa Muttai’ has many terrific take-aways, but they are delivered minus hammering.
‘Kaakkaa muttai’ is a crow’s egg, and it is a favourite stolen-from-the-nest dietary add-on for the two little boys who are left to their devices when the mother is off working, making measly sums to keep the family going. The father is in prison. And the boys, known simply as Big Crow’s Egg (J Vignesh) and Little Crow’s Egg (Ramesh) forage for coal in the yard to sell in dodgy shops happy to take stuff that fell off the back of a train.
The problems of globalization and liberalization, and the impact of advertising and media, are all in here; a shiny TV spot leads them to a new fast-food outlet whose pies, as far as two urchins are concerned, could well be in the sky. This kind of a film can easily veer towards poverty porn, serving the poor up for our delectation. It can also make heavy weather of all the weighty themes it knits into the plot. But the director keeps it light, and bright, and real.
The kids are a steal; apparently they are youngsters who live in a Chennai slum, so all they had to be was themselves. This leads to natural, powerful story-telling, and a winsome film. Take yourself, take the kids. And come back and have a ‘dosai’.