Coffee With Kadhal Movie Review: Convoluted romances, middling comedy, and an earnest Sundar C
This weirdly convoluted film sticks to Sundar C’s strengths and also strays a bit too far from them… all at the same time
Looking at director Sundar C’s filmography, it is clear that Anbe Sivam was an outlier. It was definitely an experiment, and we saw a very different Sundar C film that was so removed from his usual brand of cinema. Since then, except for Vishal’s Action, he has largely stuck to the tried-and-tested, and more importantly, successful template. With Coffee with Kadhal, Sundar C does stick to his template tropes but tries his best to give a rejuvenating new twist to it. In some ways, this weirdly convoluted film sticks to Sundar C’s strengths and also strays a bit too far from them… all at the same time.
Cast: Jiiva, Jai, Srikanth, Amritha, Divyadharshini
Director: Sundar C
Coffee with Kadhal is about Prathap Pothan’s family, comprising his sons — Ravi (Srikanth), Saravanan (Jiiva), Kathir (Jai) — and daughter Varshini (Divyadharshini). Ravi is married to Radhika (Samyuktha). The do-gooder of the family is Saravanan, who is in a live-in relationship with Neetu (Aishwarya Dutta), which invariably breaks up mainly because of Saravanan being the extra do-gooder that he is. Kathir is both an opportunist and a ‘playboy’. He also has a childhood best friend Abi (Amritha), and thanks to films like Badri and Thiruchitrambalam, there is no doubt as to the trajectory of Kathir’s arc. We also have Diya (Malvika Sharma) who is a US-born girl who wants to marry a traditional Indian man with traditional Indian values. Oh… there are the wedding planners, played by Yogi Babu and Redin Kingsley. Oh Oh… there’s Raiza Wilson’s Sarah, who has a baffling connection to them all. With so many characters and the makers deciding to use 3 or 4 songs right in the first half of the first half, Coffee with Kadhal feels like an exposition for the longest time. However, with the stage set for a bewildering comedy of errors, Coffee with Kadhal sees a consistent crescendo of sorts till the final act.
The central conflict… I mean, conflicts of Coffee with Kadhal are well-situated in a rather complex incestuous zone that needed level-headed writing. All it takes for a fun family film to become a cringefest or ‘danger to society' is one bad writing choice, and kudos to Sundar C for ensuring even when treading dangerous waters, he has a clear grip on things. While there are a few bad writing choices in other places, Sundar C ensures that the central conflict, even if whimsical or even downright risque never becomes crass.
Seeing how the writing tries to maintain this fine balance, it is disappointing to see the overall rushed feeling about the final act. Also, most of the characters in the film, apart from Varshini and Radhika, are quite selfish with a disturbing moral centre. Even the otherwise Mr Goody Two Shoes Saravanan doesn’t come out unscathed, but he does get the more fulfilling arc. The others are a bit shortchanged by the random turn of events that would have worked better if Sundar C had stuck to his strengths in comedy. Pitching a mostly breezy Coffee with Kadhal more as a drama that is peppered with a few smiles here and there undermines the potential of the premise.
The performances in Coffee with Kadhal are inconsistent because the film doesn’t really go deeper into the dynamics of their equations. There are a lot of dialogues about the bonding between the siblings, but it hardly translates to the screen because they feel like hollow words rather than poignant conversations. But all is not lost in Coffee with Kadhal. There are moments of sincerity amidst all the gloss, and most of these scenes involve Jiiva and Divyadharshini, who are the unifying factors in the film. There are multiple romance angles, multiple infidelities, multiple cameos, and a lot more things in multiples, and this chaotic atmosphere is where Sundar C thrives the best, and he does, albeit in parts. But, trying something that doesn’t come organic requires concerted effort, and it is visible in Coffee with Kadhal. The irreverence is reined in, the nonchalance is dialled down, and we know that we are seeing a quintessential Sundar C film but there is a feeling of something majorly amiss.
The pleasing aesthetics (courtesy visuals by E Krishnasamy and art by Gururaj) of the film add to the overall urbane nature of Coffee with Kadhal, which is, in a way, Sundar C’s attempt to make a Hollywood-style romcom. We have star-crossed lovers. We have insurmountable odds. We have the climactic run to the airport. We have the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ trope. But, the sensibilities of Coffee with Kadhal are still very rooted, even if it gets a bit toxic in certain places. While I’m glad that the filmmaker is trying to push the boundaries, a premise like Coffee With Kadhal needed a bit bolder approach where the boundaries are not just pushed but broken entirely.