Kadaram Kondan Movie Review: This technically excellent remake lacks emotional strength
Vikram explodes with style and charisma in a role that’s almost entirely devoid of dialogues. His physicality too lends itself to his character and helps sell all his stunt sequences
Kadaram Kondan opens with an aerial shot of the cityscape in Malaysia. It’s night, and you are allowed to take in the orderly traffic, the well-lit roads, the beautiful skyscrapers, the train that runs through the heart of the city… The opening shot slowly moves towards a skyscraper, like in the opening scene of The Dark Knight (I don't make this Hollywood film comparison easily at all), and you know instinctively that one of the glass windows is about to break into a hundred pieces — and so it does. Every single one of these elements from the opening shot takes centrestage at different times in this two-hour thriller. This is a film about a wronged ‘double agent’, KK, who knows the environment inside out. This is why he can hide in plain sight. He’s a master manipulator, a skilled fighter who can bend situations to his will. In a poetically exaggerated sense, you could say he has the measure of Malaysia. Hence the film’s title, a reference to the Chola conquest of Kadaram (as the capital city of the country was once called).
Director: Rajesh M Selva
Cast: Vikram, Abi Hassan, Akshara Haasan
Curiously though, this, you could say, is at the heart of what doesn’t work about Kadaram Kondan. The original French film on which it is based, Point Blank (2010), remains focussed on the lengths an innocent medical professional goes to, in order to rescue his kidnapped wife. The character here is Vasu (Abi Hassan), and it is all he can do to keep his wife, Aatirah (Akshara Haasan) safe. With a star like Vikram playing an important character though, the focus on Vasu suffers. To be fair to director Rajesh M Selva, he tries hard not to make KK the centre of his story. He doesn’t give him too many dialogues, and there are hardly any punch lines (the line, “Neenga vilayadinadhu yen kitta illa, Yeman kitta” line feels distinctly out of place). Such writing works to KK’s benefit and establishes him as a dangerous man who can kill without a moment’s notice.
The relationship between Vasu and Aatirah, however, isn’t strong enough to rival the powerful presence of Vikram playing KK. I was never truly sold on the couple’s chemistry, and never truly felt the despair of Vasu. Abi Hassan isn’t able to infuse the character with the sort of urgency and shock you would expect to see from someone forced into such an unfair, horrible situation. The film would have been all the better had the yin of KK’s coldness been balanced by the yang of the couple’s hyper-emotional states. For lack of it though, it is KK’s frigidity that fills up the world of this film, a big reason why you feel a sense of detachment from all the impressive action.
However, I liked that Aatirah, who is so desperate for the protection of her husband, is still able to be her own person when the situation demands it. Despite her vulnerability, she puts up gallant resistance when another woman threatens to kill her. This tussle in a cramped corridor is shot really well, and for once, we don’t see a fight between two women as being a ‘lesser’ contest. While on the film’s impressive stunt choreography, there’s another one featuring KK inside a congested office room. In this film, as in the real world, chairs and compasses turn into deadly weapons—a lot like in the director’s previous film, Thoongavanam. These are aspects we hardly see in our cinema and make this universe so much more real.
At the heart of this film is Ghibran’s pulsating background music. It’s electrifying and breathes much life and tension into this rather cold universe of killers and corrupt officials. All the punchlines you would typically find in such a film are all here in Kadaram Kondan, but exist in the form of its music. I’m quite fond of genre-loyal films, and for this reason, it’s tempting to forgive Kadaram Kondan its faults.
It also helps that Vikram explodes with style and charisma in a role that’s almost entirely devoid of dialogues. When he does get the occasional line or two, he is all fire and menace. His physicality too lends itself to his character and helps sell all his stunt sequences. Above all, I loved that despite all his star appeal, he let the film be its own person. Really, how many stars can you say that about today? And more importantly, I quite liked that Kadaram Kondan, despite featuring one of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars, isn’t overawed by his presence at all. And really, how many films with stars can you say that about?