“Soodhu Kavvum”: Tamil cinema’s answer to early Guy Ritchie films

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Ever heard of a kidnapping case where the victim turned into the mastermind and gave directions to the kidnappers on how to go ahead with the rest of the plan after being “rescued” by them from his former kidnappers? This is just one of the numerous wildly hilarious incidents that take place in Nalan Kumaraswamy’s 2013 film Soodhu Kavvum. Kumaraswamy made his debut with this riot of a film that is reminiscent of the early films of British filmmaker Guy Ritchie. Anyone who has seen Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch will see a slight resemblance in tone, pacing, and structure. The kidnappers are not just any ordinary kidnappers. They are just ordinary people who were forced to take it up as an occupation owing to the miserable circumstances that life threw at them.

While it’s not clear what made the real mastermind of the gang, a middle-aged man named Das (played by Vijay Sethupathi), chose this as his profession, it’s quite obvious from his character that he must’ve had some issues of his own. A man of strict principles and moral values, he has his own way of carrying out his kidnappings (which he spells as “kednapping” on his blackboard). He doesn’t go after powerful men, doesn’t carry weapons, doesn’t like making ridiculous threats and doesn’t like hurting his victims. In fact, he is very concerned about the well-being of his victims and even tells the father of a girl he had just kidnapped to take deep breaths to get him relaxed. Another peculiarity of his character is that he has an imaginary girlfriend with whom he has regular conversations with. He is a guy who doesn’t want to offend his victims or make them uncomfortable. He is so considerate that he takes out 1000 bucks and gives it to his victims when he lets them go. (Kumaraswamy initially wanted ace comedian Vadivelu to play him. Imagine how that would’ve turned out.)

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Enter a group of three jobless oddballs Kesavan (Ashok Selvan), Sekar (Ramesh Thilak) and Pagalavan (Bobby Simha) and Das’s life is altered significantly. Frustrated with their loser status, these men decide to join Das for a small percentage of the ransom money. A seemingly golden opportunity comes knocking at their door in the form of a man whose school-going son had been kidnapped earlier by the gang. The man’s proposal: Kidnap the son of a local politician who was responsible for putting his business partner in jail for a bribery attempt. He wants payback and thinks this gang can get it done for him. An initially hesitant Das (he doesn’t like to go after powerful men, remember?) agrees to the plan after being compelled by the other three. The politician is not an easy man to deal with because he is too concerned with his public image – he fashions himself as the only honest politician in the entire world – and he wants to get everything resolved before the upcoming elections.

Things get incredibly complicated when a tough cop, known for his brutal methods and fake encounter killings, is ordered by his superiors to go after the gang. One of the scary aspects of this character is that he doesn’t speak, not even once, throughout the entire film. But his presence and actions do give rise to some comical and memorably hilarious situations. There is also another interesting character, a fraud doctor-cum-filmmaker who helps the gang by supplying them with the necessary information. And the icing on the cake is the victim of the kidnapping himself who, to their shock and surprise, turns out to be a bigger fraud than all of them combined. What makes these characters so entertaining is the fact that despite being involved in these shady activities, they still remain likeable and this is not something that we get to see very often in crime films. I had a great time watching this film and I’ve already seen it twice. Films like this come once in a blue moon. Highly recommended.

 

 

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