Cast: Vignesh, Ramesh, Iyshwarya Rajesh
All that Professor Higgins wanted in My Fair Lady was “a room somewhere”. All that two little boys in first-time director Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai (Crow’s Egg) desire is a pizza. From the slums of Chennai, the lads, who call themselves as Periya Kaaka Muttai (Vignesh, 14) and Chinna Kaaka Muttai (Ramesh, 12), go to the quirkiest of extent to earn that Rs 300 needed to buy themselves this Italian delicacy from an outlet which opens next to their shanty. It is both novel and hilarious when the two get a makeshift pull-cart to transport sozzled men from the roadside bar to their homes. At other times, the children pick coal that drops from passing steam engines (but I thought they had been replaced with diesel and electric locomotives) to feed their family of a mother (played with extraordinary ease by Iyshwarya Rajesh) and a grandmother. The father is in jail, and the wife is struggling to get him out on bail — grappling as she is with crooked lawyers.
Finally, when the boys collect their Rs 300, they are not allowed into the pizza joint by the manager, who finds that they are shabbily dressed. But the Kaaka Muttais devise a wittily ingenuous method to get themselves new clothes.
Kaaka Muttai‘s humour camouflages the pain of the lads and the brutality of class distinction. One does not fail to notice the iron fencing which separates them from a rich boy whom they befriend, and their conversations often centring on the elusive pizza and sometimes on the swanky watch he sports underline the pathos of India’s have-nots.
However, Manikandan must be credited for not pushing his movie into a state of sombreness. Though occasionally punctuated by the boys’ frustration and sorrow, the story otherwise rises above the mundane, and the carefree smile of the children (watch the glee on their faces when they divert the attention of a crow to steal its eggs and drink it up) light up Kaaka Muttai.
Another plus point is the helmer’s ability to etch each character with care: the father in the jail and his longing to see his sons who are not allowed in because he is in a tuberculosis ward, the grandmother and her little effort to make a pizza out of a dosai and the mother herself, an epitome of dignity and restraint, are superbly three dimensional. A beautiful economy of words and excellent camerawork (Manikandan) further enrich Kaaka Muttai. At 98 minutes, it is neatly packed.
The only disappointment I had with the film was its rather cliched way of reaching the finale. We have seen an innumerable times the cocky interference by television channels, the corrupt politicians and the unethical practices of businessmen. Manikandan could have devised another climax in a movie which uses subtle ways to condemn ruthless consumerism and the brazenness of celebrities in promoting products.
Watch Kaaki Mutthai trailer here: https://youtu.be/bm6RCZgptkU