In a crucial scene in SA Chandrasekhar’s Naan Kadavul Illai, Saravanan’s character Veerappan gatecrashes a kitty party. We hear Gammunu Irkanum Usupethuna song (from SAC’s last film Capmaari) playing on a loop. And Veerappan kills everyone there, including the kids. No, this has nothing to do with their choice of music. Instead, he aims to take revenge on the man of the house, the judge who sentenced Veerappan to prison. When the judge finally arrives to see his dead family, Veerappan chops off his head and eats the blood-soaked cake saying, “Ellarukum plum cake pudikum na, enaku blood cake pudikum!” A visibly confused CBI officer Senthooran (Samuthirakani), and his assistant Leena (Sakshi Agarwal) see recorded footage of this and cover their face out of disgust at the end. Well, their reaction perfectly mirrors the experience audience goes through during this self-indulgent, overlong, incoherent experiment of SAC.
Director: SA Chandrasekhar
Cast: Samuthirakani, Saravanan, Sakshi Agarwal, Ineya, Dyana Sri
A kind-hearted man valuing law over everything gets forsaken by the very system. He finally turns vigilant and seeks revenge. In his four-decade-long career, almost every film of SAC has this common line at its core. Naan Kadavul Illai is no different, except this one is inferior on all grounds.
While SAC’s films from his golden era, like Sattam Oru Iruttuarai and Naan Sigappu Manidhan, encourage the audience to stand up for what’s right and question the flaws in the judiciary, his latest NKI has a loser who almost succumbs to evilness as the protagonist and the much-needed vigilante transformation happens here only after all damage is done.
However, these are the least of the problems in the film. Though SAC tries hard to be relevant and updated with NKI, the film ends up being dated and regressive. Senthooran’s mother, portrayed as the epitome of courage, credits it to her caste lineage. “Naan Maayandi ____ pondati da!” she often roars with pride, and the camera zooms to Vela Ramamurty’s photo on the wall. Should I even name the caste in mention?
Leena is the token representation of an independent woman in the film. But how do we know that she is one? SAC drops all the ‘pointers’ to make things easy for the audience. He makes this CBI officer wear a sports bra and work out in the gym or take down a dozen rowdies for most of the runtime. Despite her house’s walls adorning long quotes about the dissociation between nudity and honour. The film eventually does exactly the opposite, and we have an extremely disturbing scene of a teenager made to parade nude and believe that it is the end of her life. Well, I can keep going on and on.
NKI keeps trying to teach us a lot of things. But the major learning I got through the film is the newly revised and relaxed censor board rules concerning profanity. This U/A film is filled with loads of cuss words, and most of them shockingly escape the beep. I was unable to wrap my head around SAC’s fascination for swearing in NKI as his characters keep throwing a never-expected string of cuss words, which either leave us cringing or giggling. I lost it when Veerappan breaks into his dirty version of Senthoora from Bogan. Sadly, the only honest and dedicated performance of young Dyana Sri gets bull-dozed amidst this ruckus. NKI opens with a dream sequence of Ineya, which is quite an anti-climax. It is the kind of scene that potentially ends this story within minutes. How I wish dreams came true!