This film review has no spoilers, mainly because there is just one spoiler- the spoiled brat that is Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachen, AKA “Kaduva” (tiger).
It becomes evident in the first 15 minutes that our Kaduva is a big shot- not because he’s done anything significant to deserve it, but because his merit was pre-determined through his now deceased father. Throughout the movie, the father is omnipresent, because Kaduva has to consistently remind both friends and enemies alike of his lineage. I can let this go, because it is only when you lose someone that you try to make their memory stay.
Kaduva is from the Indian state of Kerala, but our story is specifically limited to the town of Pala- this is an all in all Mallu Christian hub, and it becomes very obvious in the movie too. I saw more crucifixes in this one film than I have seen at church. In this way, they have established him as you typical ‘upper’ caste Malayali Christain man. The white shirt that is specially stitched for him in a particular tailor shop with a particular cloth material, the gold cross chain and Kerala mundu that he pairs it with; large and wide estates, a successful business, a total of two-cars minimum, a big house with three children and a wife… all the way down to drinking on a Saturday night and appearing fresh and clean in church on Sunday morning. This movie has got it all right- so kudos to observation skills.
The problem is, to be this caste proud today (to be so ignorant) is honestly very embarrasing. As an ‘upper’ caste Malayali Christian myself, the movie seemed like a long stretched bout of second hand embarrasment.
The movie starts good- by exposing the perversions that exist in the Catholic church, with a priest that takes advantage of a young girl. The church ofcourse, treats the matter in the worst way possible, causing the girl’s father to meet Kaduva and ensure that his daughter is avenged. Our hero’s master mind strategy is to warn the priest by giving him an aggressive handshake.
‘Revenge’ as such is not taken until much later in the movie, when the Priest decides to be creepy with Kaduva’s wife and kicks his older daughter down the stairs.
This movie is different from other movies I have seen so far (note that I have not seen too many) because Kaduva essentially makes his own enemy by being a nosey, ignorant prick. He deliberately sees a policeman’s disabled son and tells him that the son has become so because of the father’s bad deeds in the police force. “Just take it in a good sense- but your son is this way because you’ve been doing a shitty job at work”, essentially. But the makers of the film have already apologised for this scene.
The enemity is further cemented when Kaduva slut shames the police man’s super old mother. Why? because she didn’t support a claim he made in the Church that would make trouble for our creepy Priest. Of course, he later goes to apologise but just stands there the entire time with a smug smile as the mother expresses her anger. Those who took him to convey his apology also end up making fun of her before they all leave the house feeling extremely good about themselves in absolute Mallu Christian brotherhood.
It gets worse towards the end, where in a mad quest for revenge, our policeman decides to release a man with bipolar disorder who has been admitted to a mental asylum to murder Kaduva. Yes, because that’s why the mentally ill exist- to do your dirty work. Policeman is the real sicko. The best part? the hit man is bribed with the promise of raping and murdering a woman he seems to have had an unhealthy obsession with, but obviously the movie does not delve too deep into that.
In this weird, annoying cockfight that is happening, four women have been scapegoated, for literally no reason other than furthering the plot. This screams male gaze to me. It’s pathetic and disgusting.
The cherry on top however, is this weird sympathy that is trying to be evoked for Kaduva in the film. It’s OK to hate the police man- why? because he ruined Kaduva’s life by burning his estate, shutting his business, and putting him in jail. It’s OK to hate the mentally ill man- why? because he’s dangerous to society.
It’s NOT OK to hate Kaduva- why? because he’s just a cutie with a saviour complex and arrogance. What is especially humiliating about the film is how all those in the background are almost always standing with their hands folded behind him. Coincidentally (?), these background figures are always a skin shade darker than our hero. It’s an on-screen degradation that happens over and over again to stroke his image as the kindest and best, when in reality it is just condescending arrogance.
As an audience, you shouldn’t hate him at all, because despite his HUGE plantation that was being run on the backs of workers who have no presence, no character, and no role was burnt down; and despite his bar being shut and the policeman grabbing and bullying a waiter instead of our Kaduva… the hero is still very calm and composed.
This is another freaky thing about the movie- the kaduva was barely capable of showing any kind of emotion except arrogance and anger. But aren’t we as a society already over that kind of hero? We now like our heroes to cry and laugh and be…well, human.
Despite “losing it all”, he still has enough money to sell his assets and create HUGE changes that give him the power to flip the tables on the policemen. And that, my friends, is the power of social capital and generational wealth.
Finally, I leave you with this- Kaduva can be watched only in two ways- first, as a study and analysis of the mind of an ‘upper’ caste Mallu-Christian man, his family and society dynamics, or second, as a mind-numbing three hours of action scenes that have been shot very well. But any attempts to delve deeper into this film will unravel it, leaving at its core a poorly written film by ignorant men.
If like me, you have already been harmed by watching this film, I suggest as an antidote Pa Ranjith’s Kaala, where among many other things, you can especially see women being more things than just plot catalysts.