Oru Kidaiyin Karunai Manu: An impressive debut
Cast: Vidharth, Raveena Ravi
Director: Suresh Sangaiah
Often, low-budget films set in villages aren’t really well-shot. To see through a stationary camera that is likely as bored as you are, is among the earliest turn-offs, and by the time you have negotiated another love story gone awry that’s replete with casteist undertones, you realise the disservice yet another filmmaker has likely done to the rural drama genre. Oru Kidaiyin Karunai Manu exudes none of that laziness. Quick transitions, creative angles… it’s all slickly done. Take the opening shot, for instance. The scene is shown through the eyes of a goat. Another filmmaker would likely just shoot it from the height of a goat and shake the camera a bit to indicate the animal’s movement. Director Suresh Sangaiah, however, makes the visual a tad indistinct, as though it was shot through a fish-eyed lens almost. He’s trying to show you what the world looks like from the glassy orbs that are the eyes of a goat. That’s when you sit up. This isn’t your average rural masala.
Oru Kidaiyin Karunai Manu is nothing like its title indicates. It isn’t a plea against animal sacrifices. It isn’t as solemn either, not till the final portions anyway. The story’s about a large group of villagers who hire a lorry to participate in a post-wedding goat sacrifice ritual. And it’s nothing short of tremendous that you walk out of the movie remembering the majority of those villagers. There’s the protagonist, Ramamurthy (Vidharth), the new groom. There’s his wife (Raveena), who cares about him more than anything else in the world. In one of many hilarious scenes, one of the villagers—with clothes in tatters, and bruises all over the body—approaches her, and her first response is to enquire about the welfare of her husband. There’s also the cook, whose acerbic tongue is the origin of many a funny one-liner. There’re the two friends who would do anything for a free meal. There’s the lorry owner, who threatens to be a villain originally, but turns out to be anything but. There’s the lorry driver, a big softie, who is almost manipulated into giving up his future. There’s the protagonist’s father-in-law who looks a lot like Bharathirajaa (perhaps an ode to the maker of many an unforgettable rural drama). And there’s the manipulative lawyer, the rather odd doctor, and at least a dozen other memorable characters. With a vast number of scenes always having dozens of people in the screen, it’s a terrific achievement that you feel like they are all real people, that they all go back a long way.
The best part about the film, without any doubt, is its native, organic humour. It’s the sort of situational humour you experience every day, the like of which you hardly see in cinema. The villagers get stranded in the middle of nowhere and have to negotiate a night. A few people gang up on the cook and ask him to make food for the party. And then as he begins, the visual of a cook who’s demanding ingredients as though he were making food at the heart of a wedding ceremony, is enough to crack you up. In another hilarious moment, Ramamoorthy’s wife approaches him after he’s had a fist-fight over one of the villagers mocking him for only getting married when he’s 35. A furious Ramamurthy skirts the bigger issue, when he asks his wife, “Who told you I’m 35? I’m only 31.” Oru Kidaiyin… overflows with such everyday comedy. The dialogues are a riot, and that’s a big reason why you don’t really mind the absence of background music for the most part.
The film perhaps is longer than it needs to be, and seems to go on after it has ended for all practical purposes. Also, I’m not sure I really got the goat metaphor. But it doesn’t particularly matter considering that the director never really moralises the animal sacrifices issue. Towards the end, having experienced the hilarious and often poignant interplay between such real, rural characters, it seemed to me that this is the sort of film that somebody like Manikandan would make if asked to do a village film. And well, what do you know—director Suresh Sangaiah, I learned, is an erstwhile assistant of Manikandan. And much like his master, he has come out with an impressive debut.