Kalvan Movie Review: Aimlessly meanders through a wafer-thin plot

Kalvan Movie Review: Aimlessly meanders through a wafer-thin plot

With a screenplay that takes too long to reveal the story, dialogues weighed down by exposition, ineffective humour, and outdated ideas, Kalvan is a gruelling watch
Kalvan(1.5 / 5)

Until the interval hits in Kalvan, we are treated to a pointless succession of events that seems to go nowhere in particular. Kemban (GV Prakash) is a thief; and with his trusted friend/aid (Dheena), he attempts burglaries to save enough money, so he can bribe his way to a forest officer job. However, this is merely the protagonist’s motivation, and while we patiently wait for the story to kickstart, the film meanders through an outdated romantic arc, and several attempts at humour that falls flatter than a wet towel. Kemban adopts an old man (Bharathiraja) crippled with loneliness and we are led to believe that he does so to impress Balamani (Ivana). However, the actual reason seems to be far more sinister; an elaborate scheme devised by Kemban that has Bhrathiraja’s character in the centre. The reveal that Kemban might be a complex grey character is one of the very few interesting things about the film. But the film rushes through this detail and never really delves into the intricacies of his character. Instead, we trudge through a long and winding screenplay filled with director PV Shankar’s stale humour. 

Director: PV Shankar
Cast: GV Prakash, Bharathiraja, Ivana, Dheena

GV Prakash's adamant refusal to do anything interesting with his morally grey character is contrasted with Bharathiraja’s range of acting being squandered on painfully mediocre sequences. There is a scene where Bharathiraja’s character tames a tiger and saves a girl. It is apparent how the scene would have sounded interesting on paper. And the veteran’s performance is subtle yet effective. However, the way the scene is staged, and how the editing cuts back and forth from every individual reaction, makes it seem like everyone in the scene were filmed in different locations at different times and are reacting to different things. And the cherry on top is the CGI tiger that dissolves any tension. This emotional dissonance with the characters is a recurring issue in the film. 

Kalvan is also weighed down by dated ideas that have been discarded for good reasons. In the beginning of the film, Kemban and co try stealing in Balamani’s house and after she tricks them and hands them over to the police, Kemban immediately falls in love with her. While initially reluctant, Balamani eventually falls for Kemban after she sees him adopting a destitute old man. We understand love is blind but is it really this flippant? Almost every commercial film these days suffers from dialogues that sound more like expositions than actual characters communicating with each other. But Kalvan’s exposition problem goes through its own arc in the film. It spreads like a cancer through the screenplay, eventually killing the film towards the end. At first, the supporting characters spew exposition, then it is the primary characters, and then the protagonist himself explains plot points. Towards the end, the one interesting character in the film—played by Bharathiraja, delivers unrefined exposition through a monologue. With a backstory to his character, the film attempts with such futility to force-fit its themes to the story, but it of course fails. As the story builds momentum towards the end, the film manages to earn our attention for just a brief moment. The sequence where Kemban encounters a herd of angry wild elephants is made with enough technical competence that makes you wonder why the rest of the film was not made with the earnestness shown in filming this sequence. Right from an out-of-focus POV shot of Kemban waking up to a herd of elephants charging at him, to how the chase concludes at the end, the scene packs everything from justified intent to seamless choreography. 

With a loosely packed screenplay that trudges from one pointless scene to another, and weak dialogues that damage competent performances, Kalvan has enough vacuous moments that make us zone out and question the point of its existence. 

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