There are two possible perspectives to the movie.
Kadal opens with a surreal shot of the Holy Cross against a rising sun which sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We see a young Sam (Arvind Swamy) who is about to enrol himself as a Pastor, despite belonging to a rich family, which raises many eyebrows. We also see Berchmans (Arjun), very popular among the young chaps belonging to the church. Berchmans comes from a poor background, and never allows us to forget that throughout the movie. Some unsavoury incidents cause a deep rift between Sam and Berchmans and eventually the latter drops his entire plan to become a priest, thus leaving the church. The movie essentially deals with the feud between the “Son of God” Sam and the “Son of Satan” Berchmans and how Thomas (Gowtham Karthik) or Thomman, as Sam calls him, and Beatrice / Bea (Thulasi Nair) unwittingly become a part of this.
Mother of a young Thomas, Mary, who sells her body for livelihood, is found dead one night, by Chetty (Ponvannan). Chetty, who has been a regular at Mary’s home, takes the initiative to bury her. After witnessing his mother being buried in a “themmadi kuzhi” in a very vile manner, Thomas goes to Chetty’s home, where he is shooed away by him and his wife. The motherless boy with father-issues grows up to be a big time brat, or, to be more accurate a “lumpen element” as our journalists would label, and becomes a menace to the residents of the beach. This is when Father Sam comes to the town and a mentor-student relationship blossoms between the Priest and the Brat. The movie deals with how Thomas comes to terms with his troubled childhood, through various confrontations with good (Father Sam/ Beatrice) and evil (Berchmans).
May whatever be the perspective you choose, the movie leaves you underwhelmed. Kadal has its own moments which remind us what this man called Mani Ratnam is capable of. Be it the foetal position of the small boy, trying to listen to his mother Mary’s heartbeat by lying on her dead body or the burial of Mary, which makes everyone squirm in their seats, the scenes are a class apart. We see moles on the charming face of Swamy, reminding us of a similar alteration on Mammooty in Nayagan. May be the director wanted to make the handsome man more human. There are comic touches here and there, in an otherwise serious movie, where we come to know that it takes only `50 for a Confession session as told by a local. The theme is very Christian what with the director invoking the crucifixion of Christ during the mob–attack against Sam. We see him spreading his hands, not unlike Jesus on the cross, unable to handle the violence directed at him. But these moments remain just that, not carrying on the potential charisma they can lend to the rest of the movie.
Only when it is revealed to the audience that Beatrice is having some psychological issues, that we understand – It is not Thulasi trying to be cute; it is Thulasi sucking big time at acting. The audience are left to themselves the question, as to why she is not given any treatment. We just see regular admonishment from her class mates and a “Mother Superior”, that she is a very gifted but child-like “angel”. We also do not understand why Thomas shifts alliance in a jiffy and goes over to the dark side. As we surf towards the climax, we stop caring what happens to these characters. The only incentive for the audience, to stay till the end, is the curiosity as to how Anbin Vasaley is picturised – (again disappointing).
Though Gowtham has the starting trouble of being a newcomer, unlike his co-star, he is not totally lost. He delivers the angst of the disowned child perfectly. I hopewith some more movies, he will improve his dialogue delivery. Arvind Swamy leaves us wanting more. Take a look at the scene where he reacts to the fisherwoman who tricks him into buying fish – masterly! Arjun tries to be Lord Voldemort and leaves a good yet slightly caricature-d performance.
The songs are one of the major attractions of any Mani Ratnam movie and they remain so here too. There are two Magudis, which audience may find perfect or not depending on their views on cinema. Adiye, though aptly timed, is shot in a bizarre way. It islike Snehithane Snehithane in a sunny beach. Yes, you read that right. I loved it, but not many may. Similarly Nenjukkuley and Moongil Thottam are also wonderfully timed. Especially the scene during which Beatrice innocently brushes Tom’s hands and tells him “thirumba pannatha” after he had just finished telling her the details of his dark life. Beautiful. The cinematography is a treat to the eyes, particularly the night time scenes. Rajiv Menon has brilliantly captured the sea, sea shore, and its inherent innocence. The climax shot in the turbulent sea is breath taking, that you almost curse Mani Ratnam and try to talk to him through telepathy asking him why the hell had he not made the story better. Let us hope the Midas gets his golden touch back.
Favourite Scene – Thomas assists Bea in giving birth to a child and realises blood not only means death, but also means birth.