Every now and then there comes a film which is twisted and abstract and tests the intelligence of the viewer. And for this review specifically, I wish to get straight to the point rather than meandering with the introduction. And so I finished watching the Tamil film Kuthiraivaal on Netflix. I must say this is one helluva roller coaster. The review may contain mild spoilers so discretion is advised. And you will find this review slightly weird but please bear with me. So here we go!
Story & Screenplay
Kuthiraivaal follows the story of an alcoholic bank employee who wakes up with a horse’s tail. What is the mystery behind it? The story is really abstract and it takes you on different levels of a psychedelic dream or multiple reflections if you may call it. If any of you have read Kafka’s Metamorphosis then you will find similarities here wherein a man was transformed into a giant insect. Here the man waking up with a horse’s tail may have multiple significances. It acts as a metaphor like a baggage from the past especially for a man who is a loner in many ways.
As the screenplay progresses, it touches upon various unrelated yet related facets of a dream. As per a character who is able to interpret a dream, she speaks of a reference from The Bible. As per another character, it is related to Mathematics and how memories are actually illusions or more specifically reflections of our thoughts. And another character, traces it to a sexuality of a person. The question is can it be referenced multiple times or does it need to be specific?
It is this very point which is further explored in the screenplay using the concept of Mirror Stage by Jacques Lacan who was known as The French Freud(notice the name). As per his theory which he observed in infants, when they look into the mirror, they transformed themselves into an object which can be viewed from the outside. It is this concept that repeats itself in multiple scenes – A woman eating with her left hand whereas she thought to have been eating with her right hand. Or the existence of the Tamil Actor and Politician MGR, a reference of which shows him dead whereas many question to have watched him onscreen a day earlier. Or even the existence of the two protagonists – one who goes by the name Freud and the other by Saravanan. Likewise for the woman who is Irusayi and Van Gogh. How about if both exist in different timelines?
You will get a feeling of getting tipsy while watching the film simply because it is too much to take in. But remain patient and just surrender to the vision of the directors. We often do not draw any logic from dreams. How about while we are asleep, we are awake in another world in a totally different timeline(which we call a dream). This concept has always fascinated me and come to think there is so much more than having an existential crisis just like the protagonist in the film. Along the way, various social issues are also smartly tackled like Global Warming or capitalist treatment at a work place. The film is open to interpretations and that is the best part of it.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are smartly written leaving behind hints yet allowing the audience to form their own opinion about what has transpired. The BGM is trippy and takes you on one helluva ride! The cinematography runs havoc is a very tipsy manner with excellent images being captured. The use of neon lights of different colours to give an idea about the protagonist having a dream(or so I interpreted it to be) was a genius idea! Directors Shyam Sundar and Manoj Leonel Jason have just let loose, almost exploring the realms of a dream or reflections or illusions purposely in a disorganized manner which makes you standup and take notice. This is perhaps the best piece of direction which I have witnessed this year!
The performances are outstanding. Sowmya Jaganmurthy shines especially in the final scene. Anjali Patil as Irusayi/Van Gogh is such a great actor that she downplays her role terrifically so. The restraint in her character adds a level of mystery and intrigue to it which was so refreshing to watch. Kalaiyarasan as Sarvanan/Freud is simply brilliant here. His role demanded some level of physicality with him twitching every time his tail twitches which is maintained throughout the running minutes. All other actors are equally brilliant and perform their parts to perfection.
Kuthiraivaal is one of the most twisted and cerebral films of recent times which is open to interpretation. Available on Netflix and this film comes with my highest recommendation!
PS : A Run time of just over 120 minutes may not seem much but it will be difficult to binge watch this film in one go. A sensible thing would be to watch a little and allow it time to settle.