Kaari Movie Review: Much to like in this rural actioner
An almost there masala film that has plenty of interesting ideas
South cinema is perhaps in its most interesting phase now as makers have finally realised that the most personal stories are the most creative. Debutant Hemnath seems to believe in this school of filmmaking, as his passion to tell a raw and rustic rural tale is evident with several of his ideas in Kaari, but unfortunately, he holds his punches back for the most part and plays it safe by delivering us an execution that is run-of-the-mill.
If Kaari works, it's because of the conviction in Hemanth's writing, with the titular character being a warrior capable of sending chills down the spine of any enemy. Kaari has many heroic moments, and the opening one--for a bull that the title takes after--is nothing less than a superstar's. With the film and plot leaning on the final jallikattu sequence and a strong foundation already laid in the form of an invincible bull, we expect Hemanth to show us the equation it shares with Sasikumar's Sethu, its tamer, and the latter's journey from a jockey to a competent jallikattu player. But the director completely ignores them and introduces several new elements like unmonitored garbage dumping, the downfall of agricultural lands and of course, a corporate giant.
Cast: Sasikumar, Parvathy Arun, JD Chakravarthy, Balaji Shakthivel, Adukalam Naren
Though these are hiccups to the main storyline, they also turn out to be interesting. Perhaps if Kaari were a web series like Pettaikaali which also dealt with Jallikattu, these issues might have been handled as separate episodes. But within the scope of a feature film, it feels suffocating and eats up screen space when it might have served to walk us through core traditions surrounding a jallikattu event. There are mentions of 18 bull breeds and 18 descendants from selected families in the village necessary for the bull-taming competition, but they are so fleeting that we take in very few details.
In this rather rushed film, I liked the occasional moments that breathe, like the scene where the village head dresses up Sethu as a part of Urumakattudhal and explains the reason behind the tradition. I also liked how the director manages to fit in other grounded elements like the life of people who live by hunting snails. Despite having impressive performances from its lead cast, their emotions feel distant because of the lack of emphasis on such real moments.
As a hack, the director tries to draw parallels within the stories like equating Sethu's dead horse to the bull which gets trapped in a slaughterhouse, and the kind-heartedness of his father to his girlfriend. These references also feel distant and we see the callbacks approaching us way ahead, thanks to the exposition in the form of slow-mo shots and repeated dialogues.
It is evident that effort has gone into the exchanges between the characters and they elevate the screenplay. But the idea of making every dialogue sound like a punchline and the incessant rhyme game evoke unintentional laughter. It is hard for anyone to have a straight face when a character goes, "Un ponna kanni-a vechi irundhu, vengala kinni-a vaanga pora?" in a serious scene.
I had issues with every urban character being a villain in Kaari. JD Chakravarthy's SRK is a psychotic corporate honcho, Ramkumar Sivaji's character is another billionaire who kills animals out of rage, and Prem, who plays Sasi's friend, is a paedophile. Ammu Abhirami's character is probably the only kind-hearted city-dweller in the film, but it is clearly evident that the character has been written for tokenism.
Though Sasikumar has been terribly miscast as a Chennai-paiyan who is still figuring out his moral compass, the actor sells the character earnestly and his Madras baashai is on point. The sequences set in Chennai would have been more effective if the filmmaker had rewritten the role to suit the actor's age and image or cast someone relatively younger. The rest of the casting game is on point and the woman lead, Parvathy Arun, makes a smashing debut. She gets the most relatable role in the film and sells it effortlessly, reminding us of Parvathy Thiruvothu from her Tamil debut Poo. I really wish we had seen more of her.
D Imman is in glorious form in Kaari. His terrific background score delivers highs at the right moments and his score in the final jallikattu sequence along with Ganesh Chandrra's outstanding cinematography is a blast on the big screens.
Debutant Hemanth's Kaari talks about the importance of communal harmony and the resultant synergy that does miracles. But ironically, the tasteful ingredients in Kaari don't blend well together as a wholesome dish.