‘Kakkaa Muttai – my review of a Tamil film

‘Is this a Tamil film?’ I found myself asking this question when I was watching ‘Kakka Muttai’ (crow’s egg ). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I don’t watch movies, leave alone tamil movies. But Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu and Kashayam with Bosskey influenced me to watch the film. And what an experience it was!

The story line is very simple – two slum kids desire a pizza. Do they get to eat or not is what the movie is all about.

The director, M.Manikandan, doesn’t seem to be a newbie to direction. There are subtle messages but no preaching is involved. The way the story has been filmed , the likes of Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth should cringe in shame. The two kids, Ramesh and Vignesh, have lived their roles – they are apparently from a slum it seems.

Let me narrate some scenes where I was completely floored.

‘Oru kilo Three rupees’  – the younger child says this when trying to sell the spilled over coal from the goods wagons. The sense of triumph on the child’s face when he utters the English words ‘three rupees’ is sure to bring tears to the viewer. The aspiration of the child is to speak in English and hence he often says ‘My name is Chinna Kaka Muttai’ ( my name is Crow’s Egg Jr) while he calls his elder brother ‘Periya Kaka Muttai’ (Crow’s Egg Sr ). In a land still obsessed with the belief that speaking in English means a higher strata in society, this triumphant expression of the child of ‘having arrived’ is a stark reminder about the distance that the slum dwellers need to travel to actually ‘arrive’ and be accepted into the urban mainstream.

The child’s facial expression when the tree, where the crow had its nest, is cut is bound to remain in one’s conscience for a long time. The child is sad due to two reasons.

  1. The crow has lost its abode
  2. No more crow eggs for them to get their nutrition from

The child innocently asks the elder brother where would the crow go for the night. The child has lost his only source of nourishment, the crow’s egg. However he is concerned about the safety of the crow now that the tree has been cut. Just the one line that the child speaks moves you beyond anything else any other character in the film says.

The film is also a stark reminder to the Tamil Nadu government. There are two TVs provided by the PDS ration shop while there is no stock of rice. The slum dwellers need rice more than anything else. But they are given two TV sets, free of cost, by the government. A timely message for those who want to hear.

The children want pizza more than even getting their father out of jail.  And they are introduced to pizza when their favorite haunting ground is bought over by a pizza outlet. The practice of inviting film stars to open such outlets draws small children from nearby slums. But the irony is those children are not able to afford an entry into such shops.

The children’s mother, another actor with great potential, expresses her anger and agony at the pain caused by opening such not-affordable shops in the vicinity of slums – all with meager words. She is not against the shop but expresses her despair. Kudos to the female actor.

The two brothers strike a friendship with a well to do child who lives in a gated community. And every time they interact, there do so across the steel gate barrier. The steel gate signifies the class divide and that part has been brilliantly conceptualized. I was just amazed at this.

There is a drunkard who deals in stolen goods. And once he is drunk, he speaks about class divide, the rule of the Maratha warrior Sivaji and the like. But when he is sober, he becomes a practical person who does his daily chore of dealing in stolen goods. A fantastic portrayal of the futility of such rhetorical speeches of the communist kind.

kakkaa muttai picture

I am not sure if the depiction of DBS Bank in the background when the children think of entering the ‘City Center Mall’ was intentional. Even if it was not, I feel the logo of the Singaporean bank in Chennai where two slum children contemplate to enter a mall speaks volumes about the rich-poor divide. Kudos again.

There is a sarcastic depiction of the media as well. The lady reporter is talking about the two slum children in front of the camera ( with the slum as the background ). The two children walk by and are shooed away from the scene. Nothing portrays the insensitive attitude of the media than this one scene. Yet another is when a TV debate on the children is interrupted midway twice once for a commercial break and another for relaying the scene when the children are hit by the pizza shop employee.

Finally, when the younger child says that the shop is cold, referring to the air-conditioning in the shop, serves as a hammer strike on our conscience. The child has never experienced air-conditioning in his life.

The ending where the child compares the pizza with his late grand mother’s dosai and delivers his judgement – if you would have watched the movie thus far, chances are, you would not be able to see the child’s expression as your eyes would have been flooded with tears- is a master piece.

Tamil cinema is not dead, yet.

Some “rational” questions ..

Strange as it may sound, as a Tamil, I do not support the current “uprising” of the students in particular and Tamil people in general. Well, I am prepared to be vilified for that – having been an object of vilification for a long time for some extremely uncomfortable but common-sense writings that seek to question the very basis of certain beliefs such as Dravidian egalitarianism, rationalist ideology , an euphemism for Brahmin bashing, and ‘secularism’ – the Indian version of pusillanimity.

Some basic questions need to be answered. Yes, I don’t expect the elite Tamil nationalists -read chauvinists- to answer but at least understand that such questions are still prevalent in this mob hysterical sense of Tamil nationalism.

When Prabakaran killed the other Tamil leaders like Siri. Sabarathinam, Padmanabha, Lakshman Kadirgaamar, Joseph Para Raja, veteran Amirthalingam in cold blood, why was this euphoria not seen at all? Were the Tamil people not concerned about the welfare of those very same Sri Lankan Tamils then? Why were those killings justified? Even Karunanidhi lamented that the Tamil fighters were destroying themselves in a fratricidal war. Not even a whimper of protest then!

How did Rajapakshe come to power? Who prevented the Tamil populace from voting in the last elections? Why was Ranil Wickramasinghe defeated? The answer is not difficult to find. It was the LTTE that prevented the Tamil people from voting and hence helped Rajapahske win. So whose fault is it that Rajapakshe is in power now ?

Yes, it was a pathetic sight to see this young Balachandran killed in cold blood. The perpetrators should be tried and probably handed out the death penalty. But were not female suicide bombers used by the same Tigers to assassinate people? How many such young Tamil lives were lost ? If you destroy the progenitors how does your clan develop? And why not even a murmur of protest then on these acts ?

How come Kanimozhi, Baalu and Thirumaa visit Raajapakshe and hand out shawls to him and on return to India lament about genocide ? Is this not the worst case of double speak and act ?

Some questions are better not asked at all.