Review of Soodhu Kavvum, a 2013 Tamil Film Starring Vijay Sethupathi, Sanchita Shetty

GRADE: AA / 90%

Soodhu Kuvoom is a dark comedy built on themes of unemployment, kidnapping, blackmailing, police brutality, fake encounter and corruption but not even for a split second does it forget that it is first and foremost a dark comedy, and never it its manic energy lost or its comedy sacrificed while handling its heavyweight themes. The film never breaks its basic rules, and even when you feel at moments that it may go off-course, the story ingeniously swerves to its original course. Take for instance a scene from the movie when the four lead characters are arrested on charges of kidnapping and taken to court; that’s when you go “Oh no, now they’re going to spend the rest of the hour turning the film into a silly courtroom drama” but no, that’s when Soodhu Kuvoom hilariously reminds us that it won’t break its fundaments, and that is to be a rip-roaring dark comedy.

So, in a humorous twist, the ‘victim’ (who’s actually the mastermind’ who fakes his kidnapping, is actually kidnapped, connives with his kidnappers, then gives them a slip) denies that the four kidnapped him and the case is dismissed immediately. The tone of the film is both consistent and cautious, never forgetting how it should be presented yet driving its message home superbly. Bollywood films usually have a tendency to forget very easily the original tone of their projects – a film that’s extremely funny till interval will abruptly turn into a cloying melodrama post-interval to cater to sentimental audiences, and sensible audiences are left thinking “Hey wait, wasn’t I watching a comedy before I headed to the restroom during the intermission? Did the filmmakers flush it down the toilet to fart out a silly melodrama suddenly?”. Maybe Bollywood could take a few lessons from Tamil films like Soodhu Kuvoom and get it’s sh*t together.

It’s safe to say that none of the men in Soodhu Kuvoom is a saint, and everybody explores shows their dark side and plays dirty to get their share of cake. But there’s angst and a desperation which drives them to taking the shortcut to wealth and success. Our leading man Das, is an amateur kidnapper who’s more afraid of offending his victim and the victim’s relatives while demanding the ransom money. He assures the victim’s relatives that they do not need to worry about the victim’s well-being and the victim is safe and comfortable under his care. His ransom demands are petty and the funniest part is that he tips each victim from the ransom money after setting them free. These absurdities are nothing when we come to the part of Das’ invisible friend Shalu, who’s only visible to Das and is the accomplice to his crimes. The three other men, Kesavan, Sekhar and Paglavan are buddies who are unemployed, one being fired for defending himself against allegations of misbehaving with a female coworker, the other being jobless bum and the third driven away from hometown. Fate (a drunken brawl) brings these four men together and then their journey of kidnapping begins. This is shown in a flat-out hilarious sequence, where we see people of all ages and personalities being kidnapped and let go soon; there’s one lady who shows no signs of panic and coolly continues chattering on her cell- phone even after being kidnapped.

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In one of their crimes, the victim’s parent, calls them and requests them to kidnap the son of Minister Gnanodhayam. The parent happens to be the brother of a contractor who was arrested under Gnanodhayam’s orders on charges of bribery, and he wants to extract revenge upon the Minister. So, all he wants our four heroes to do is to kidnap Gnanodhayan’s son, Arumai and ask for two crores as ransom. The heroes agree and pursue Arumai one day but are left baffled when another group of men kidnap him in front of their eyes before they can make their move. Later, dressed as policemen, they try to rescue-kidnap Arumai and realize on finding him that the guy had staged his own kidnapping. Later the five (six if the invisible girl’s to be included) try to bilk Arumai’s father and share the money amongst themselves. Their plan is successful until Arumai, the clever fox gives the others a slip and an unforgiving, rule-bending cop is deployed to root out the culprits. The thing that made me happiest while watching this film was that it brought me closer to my true roots, my South Indian blood. This is the first time I’m watching a Tamil film and I have lived nineteen whole years in India, and this film made me understand what a crowd-pleasing entertaining truly is. Mainstream Bollywood films are too obsessed with fair looks and toned bodies, so much that its six-pack or size-zero which decides who the biggest stars are. The actors in Soodhu Kuvoom would barely last in Bollywood because they neither have the looks nor the figure to make it in a mainstream Bollywood blockbuster, but the natural, earthy and indigenous charisma which these actors possess is something the Bollywood bandwagon (with exceptions, of course) can only dream of. No one here mugs for the camera, and we know these actors are acting to entertain their audience. Even the eye-candy Shalu, played by a gorgeous Sanchita Shetty, has a worthy role in the film, which is rare in Bollywood.

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Everyone in this world has a dark side, says Soodhu Kavoom, and most are driven under desperation to play dirty, and in this bad bad world, dishonesty is the road to success. And what happens to rules? Well, weren’t they always meant to be broken?

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by Sashank Krishna Kini