Pettikadai Review: A petty film filled with regressive ideas
A cringe-inducing and entirely problematic excuse for cinema masquerading as a message film
Films take us on an emotional ride. They make us smile, sob, empathise, and laugh. While some teach us a social lesson, some others make us outrage for a noble cause. Pettikadai is the kind of film which apes the latter formula, but ends up making the audience outrage about the film itself for its regressive ideas.
Pettikadai is essentially a doctor's (Chandini Tamilarasan as Dwaraka) battle against the corporate to bring back the petty shops in a village. She cites the health hazards faced by the villagers due to the consumption of the food items sold by the supermarkets and online grocery portals. While one may expect the director to showcase the actual side-effects faced by the villagers, he takes a detour and bombards us with a plethora of problematic ideologies.
Director: Esakki Karvannan
Cast: Chandini Tamilarasan, Veera, Varsha Bollamma
Remember Kamal Haasan's theru koothu song Naatukkoru Seithi Solla from Anbe Sivam? The dance drama sequence communicated the motive of the protagonist, the conflict faced by the people, the mastermind behind it, and finally, even the solution to the problem, while keeping the audience entertained throughout. While Kamal Haasan and Sundar C were able to do all this within a span of eight minutes, debutant director Esakki Karvanan beats around the bush throughout the runtime of Pettikadai trying to make a social film without ever addressing the main issue. The 'corporate system' is mentioned as the evil throughout the film, but there is no proper definition for who or what constitues this nebulous antagonist. Whenever a character gets puzzled by this and asks the right questions like, "What exactly is corporate? Who are we fighting against?" he/she is asked to shut up and told, "Adhellam unaku sonna puriyadhu." We are also not shown what exactly is the evil faced by the villagers, as all of them seem happy ordering products online and chilling.
A list of all the problematic elements in this film would be endless. For starters, the story happens in a parallel universe where all men are womanisers, except Samuthirakani (after all, Kani is Kani in any film). An eighty-year-old watches pornography with his grandson and a bunch of his friends, and says, "Perandi kuda padam pakalam, Perandi oda padam partha dhaan thappu." Well, I'll leave it right there. Men in the film generally treat women as objects of desire. While the comedian Rajendran addresses Chandini as Kannazhagi, the villain Thirumurugan calls her Idaiazhagi.
A Muslim character is verbally abused in several scenes, followed by namesake apologies. Instead of outraging against his oppressors to safeguard his beliefs, he just gives in and says, "Amman dhaan ellam ava namba oora kaapathuva!" Karvannan doesn't stop there. He claims that scheduled caste people shouldn't be educated as it has made them migrate to the cities, ultimately leading to the loss of natural resources. He also contends that they shouldn't be given basic amenities like roadways.
How I wish the censor board was a bit more diligent when certifying films with such objectionable and toxic content. As mentioned earlier, the content of the film could have been made on the lines of a revolutionary theru koothu, but it settles instead for a cringy and icky aadalum paadalum show.