Kaadan Movie Review: Rana Daggubati saves the forest, but not the film
Cinema may be a powerful medium to send the right message, but such superficial resolutions only make well-intentioned stories come through as uninspiring lectures
Tamil cinema has a rather productive relationship when it comes to films featuring elephants. From MGR's Nala Neram to Prabu Solomon's very own Kumki, the films have managed to serve as lucky charms. But what can luck do by itself when a film like Kaadan offers so little?
Director: Prabhu Solomon
Cast: Rana Daggubati, Vishnu Vishal, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Zoya Hussain
With much respect to the efforts that have clearly gone into the making of this film that involves very many elephants and of course, VFX, it’s the wafer-thin, predictable plot that lets this film down. Such animal films typically make up for predictable storytelling with emotional engagement. However, in Kaadan, the emotions feel superficial to the extent that even when there’s a death, it leaves little impact. Even worse, one supposedly tragic sequence involving Kaadan (Rana) and his elephants ends up being hilarious instead.
It is natural then that you are never too involved with the hero's mission in this film, which is to save a forest and its elephants from a greedy politician and a corporate firm. If the idea of these ubiquitous evil corporations isn’t getting repetitive enough, it’s baffling that the solution suggested in these films is always viral videos and trending hashtags. Cinema may be a powerful medium to send the right message, but such superficial resolutions only make well-intentioned stories come through as uninspiring lectures, instead of the spectacles they aim to be.
Take nothing away from the earnest efforts and performance of Rana though. The actor looks incredibly convincing as a 50-year-old forest dweller and breathes much life into the character. Seeing him exude joy over everyday events in the forest like elephants drinking at the pond or the growth of a sapling is such a pleasure to watch that I wished that the evil land mafia never stepped into this story.
The film also has two tastefully choreographed chase sequences in the city, with Kaadan’s seemingly random, snappy one-liners resulting in a fair bit of entertainment. Rana's Kaadan is a quintessential commercial cinema hero. While such a hero typically falls in love with a girl, and wins her love again after a misunderstanding, and goes on to enforce social change with her support, Kaadan too does pretty much the same, but here, the love of his life is not a girl; it is nature and its mammoth creature, the elephant. However, unlike in an enjoyable masala film, the many elements of the story don’t come together as well as they should.
Also, all the good work done with the life story of Kaadan gets undone by the segment featuring Maran (Vishnu Vishal). The character and his love track feel forcefully added, like it were an afterthought, and adds little to the overall plot. This love angle of a kumki mahout and a tribal girl feels only like a rehash of Prabhu's own film, Kumki. It is also surprising to see a competent actor like Vishnu hamming it up even in the simple scenes. Maaran's love interest, Aruvi (Zoya Hussain), barely gets a dialogue, and is the equivalent of a mannequin. There’s a whole sequence involving unrequited love, an exploited elephant and a mysterious Naxal group that ends so abruptly that it seems to belong to a different film instead.
The attempt to make a trilingual also seems to have taken a toll on this film. While Prabu Solomon's films are known for hit songs and scenic picturisation, the tracks here feel like nursery rhymes. The music of Hindi composer Shantanu Moitra and lyricist Vanamali combine to create a rather lifeless score. The incessant visual cues that attempt to root the story in a forest near Coimbatore fail when you have a North Indian character struggling to speak Tamil. The below-par VFX joins in to make it all a thoroughly underwhelming experience.
Rana as Kaadan is excellent and is a delight to watch. It’s a character who saves the forest single-handedly, but not the film.