‘Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum’: A “lovable rogue” story that feels fresh

Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum-2016

He dunks bananas in liquor like other people dunk Oreos in milk. He is an oddball. His life is in disarray. He feels like a loser. And he happens to be a hoodlum, but with a heart of gold. His name is Kathir.

So what kind of romance can you expect between a poor-mannered guy like him and a disciplined, modern girl – an IT graduate – who is in his city looking for a job. This is another Vijay Sethupathi film that I kept putting off (apart from Sethupathi) because of few silly reasons.

I guess it’s the ‘kadhal’ in the title – I expected another melodramatic love story. But being a huge Sethupathi fan and also given the fact that it was directed by Nalan Kumarasamy – who made the brilliant Soodhu Kavuum – I was compelled to check it out. What a pleasant surprise this was!

It was neither melodramatic nor the typical love story. I was bored of seeing the same old “guy falls in love with a girl without being friends with her first” story. I wasn’t interested in that sort of nonsense. Yeah right, you keep following a girl and one day she falls in love with you just like that – how realistic!

I’m interested in love stories where a couple falls in love after being friends with each other, getting to know each other first and all that. What we have here is one of the most unlikely couples you’ve come across in cinema. It’s the Beauty and the Beast story we’ve seen before, but only rarely. This is a fresh take on the same story.

So, the girl: She is Yazhini, a typical middle-class type with over-protective parents who don’t like the idea of sending her alone to some other city much less her own neighborhood. (Even many Indian guys will be able to identify with her because they too are being treated like girls these days.) Madonna Sebastian plays her.

Somehow Yazhini manages to persuade her parents to let her go because she has no other option. In the new city, she finds an okay looking place. She has no one to share her flat with. She soon bumps into Kathir, who is living next door. The first impression isn’t the best impression. But a friendship develops over time, regardless.

You don’t see any similarities between them except for one: Both have big dreams. She too feels like a loser at the moment. He has grown weary of beating up goons for his mentor and dreams of owning a bar. She has few dreams of her own, one of which is to get a job as soon as possible. The funny thing about him is that in every assignment he takes, it’s him who gets beaten up. These scenes evoke some laughs. Actually, most of the film is quite funny.

When she gets humiliated by few interviewers – and on one occasion, nearly molested – he takes matters into his own hands. He becomes Krishna to her Draupadi. At this point, they are still friends. The falling in love part occurs much later when she gets drunk one night and they both sleep together (not literally). He is elated and a fantasy song follows. Thankfully, this is not one in which both are running around trees.

Now, I have to say something about Sethupathi’s dancing style. Usually, in a majority of the song sequences, the actor shows off some of his cool (Western) dance moves. He is usually an ordinary hero who may not have taken any dance lessons in real life. But when a song appears, it’s as if he got hold of some Matrix-like technology that downloads some rocking dance steps to his brain.

However, this is not the case with Sethupathi. He dances in the same way as he fights – like he is high. It’s not something that I had seen before. It’s the kind of dance moves one picks up on the streets, not in discotheques. It looks very natural. And I’ve seen the actor adopt a similar approach in one other film too, Orange Mittai. Instead of yawning, I’m smiling. He actually looks like he is enjoying himself. This is how a dance should be.

Now back to the couple. There is enough witty banter exchanged between the two and this provides for some genuinely funny and moving moments. Now, the romance hasn’t begun yet. Slight complications arise along the way and this has mostly to do with Kathir’s line of work. A major obstacle in the form of a corrupt ex-cop called Kumar (the terrific as always Samuthirakani) is blocking his vision.

This is where I would like to point a small Kurosawa reference. I’m not sure if this was in the original Korean version My Dear Desperado and I don’t know if it’s the director’s original idea but there is one sequence in particular (which I don’t want to spoil) that, to me, felt like a direct homage to Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel. The only difference here is that this film isn’t as dark. I eagerly look forward to Kumarasamy’s next film.

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