Kuruthi Aattam Movie Review: This gangster film lacks emotional heft

Kuruthi Aattam Movie Review: This gangster film lacks emotional heft

The lack of any real novelty and purpose makes this Atharvaa-starrer a passable addition to the aruvaa-gangwars genre
Rating:(2.5 / 5)

In an early scene in Kuruthi Aattam, Sakthi (Atharvaa) suddenly turns at his sister, who’s cooking, and expresses his irritation at her choice of clothes (she’s wearing a saree). He explains to his friend, who’s as puzzled as we are, that she’s wearing polyester and that he’s uncomfortable about her standing so close to the stove. You immediately recognise that this quick, passing scene is simply weak foreshadowing—with Sakthi never again showing such a fine eye for such little details. Similarly, weak foreshadowing happens when a sickly child turns at her ex-con father and says, “Thappu panna maatennu promise pannu pa.” Kuruthi Aattam is full of such choppy exchanges that never allow for any real immersion. The film hurtles from character to character and their one-liners, under the name of urgency. Director Sri Ganesh's plan seems to be to drop you into this circus of mindless violence, in which everyone is out to get someone—but the problem is, the characters simply aren’t well-defined enough to make you care... and frankly, they aren’t new to this genre of cinema either. This lack of any real novelty, any real purpose about why this story is being told, is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Kuruthi Aattam.

Director: Sri Ganesh
Cast: Atharvaa, Radikaa Sarathkumar, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Kanna Ravi

The aruvaa fights go on and on, with the film almost disinterestedly capturing the repetitive, cyclical nature of violence. In theory, you could argue there's merit in such documentation, but the way it plays out—through one botched assassination attempt after another—makes you want more: more exploration, more meaning, more novelty, more something. The editing is jumpy, and Yuvan goes hard with the guitars, but it’s hard to shake off a feeling of restlessness during this 150-odd-minute-long film. There are at least a couple of interesting choices on paper—one of them being the casting of Radikaa as the gangleader, Gandhimathi. She plays the character with a composed demeanour and quiet bossiness, and I bought her as a matriarch, even if not as an aruvaa-wielding gangster fighting off armed rival gang members (one gangster actually flies off her fist). “Revenge is our duty,” says Radikaa’s Mathi, parroting a not-so-novel line in such cinema. I’d have liked to learn more about Mathi—her desires, her motivations, her drive—and for lack of any real understanding of her, I couldn’t quite summon any empathy for the profound loss she suffers.

Another interesting idea is the unlikely friendship that forms between Sakthi and Mathi’s son (Kanna Ravi, who comes across as rather likeable). The circumstances under which this relationship gets formed make it a fascinating friendship, and yet, it’s only superficially explored through long phone calls and strange t-shirt gifts. Again, for lack of any real emotional exploration of this bond, a big loss suffered doesn’t affect you as it should. Even the most pulsating thrillers need those moments of quiet depth, those profound conversations that anchor everything… but Kuruthi Aattam shows it's happy to briefly pause for a hero-falls-for-heroine song that’s shot in all the expected ways. Meanwhile, Sakthi’s girlfriend, Vennila (Priya Bhavani Shankar), is the usual supportive woman who offers the hero solace in such gangster films. Right at the beginning, Vennila teacher offers a problematic justification for hurting school children, saying that it’s for “their own good”, but like many other angles in this film, this doesn’t quite come up for any genuine discussion (or criticism) later.

The backbone of films like Kuruthi Aattam is really the set-pieces and the choreography, but here there's nothing much to write about. There’s the enjoyable hint that perhaps Sakthi’s kabaddi skills could be helping him on the battlefield, but it doesn’t quite result in any riveting moments. Nevertheless, the parallels between a Kabaddi player going on a raid and a man fending off many killers is interesting. There’s also something about the decadence of the old (actors like Radikaa and Radharavi stand for the dogged old guard that won’t change its ways); there’s something about an uncorrupted girl child who speaks up against ‘doing bad’. There’s something about roses—the girl-child gives it to her dad—and the film too turns to this symbol more than once. However, these ideas remain largely unexplored, and I really don't think it's a good sign that all I remember about Kuruthi Aattam, barely hours after watching the film, is a bunch of angry, yelling men, running at each other brandishing aruvaas

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