I watched a moral science lesson

I watched Kaththi. I am asking myself why. In my defence though, it seemed more agreeable than Poojai and Happy New Year (I may be right about that). Another question I have been asking myself is this: Am I obliged to like a movie because it imparts a message about social ills?

Everyone wants to know someone else’s opinions. This way, when I reveal that I did not infact like Kaththi, despite its long drawn out lectures on the Deteriorating Plight of Poor Farmers in Villages, Depleting Sources of Groundwater, Evil MNCs, and Apathetic City Dwellers; I am looked upon as one of the aforementioned apathetic city dwellers. Therefore, I have come to understand that I must not have liked Kaththi because: 1. I am a Vijay hater, 2. I am from Chennai, and thus I am not tuned in to the difficulties faced by those who bring the food to my plate etc., and 3. I am lying.

I am not a Vijay hater – I try hard to like him. I continue to watch Ghilli on KTV only for him (it is difficult to not get annoyed by Trisha whimpering in a corner and pretending to be a doll). Contrary to the opinion that ARM seems to have of us Chennai-brats, I am not one to say: Don’t bring village problems to me. What I feel is this: I would rather read the newspaper, watch one of the many news channels, read an article in the Caravan outlining these very real issues, watch a lecture on water resources management. It is the force-feeding I detest.

Let me now present to you the case of the vilified Chennai residents. We have not one but two shots of a man and a woman bathing luxuriously in a bathtub (separately of course), with a hand shower and soap bubbles. We cut to other scenes of women getting a pedicure or washing their hair. (Surely women in villages wash their hair too?) Another passing image of a family lolling about on their bed with a burger inserted strategically into the frame. Who are these people? Are they caricatures of those like me? Does my colleague from Karur look at me and think: Here she comes after her one hour long bath in a bathtub and her breakfast of french fries?

At every turn, we have to witness people complaining, ostensibly to Vijay-the-Saviour; but in fact, to us. They are exhorting us to do something about these problems that plague our villagers. They want to emotionally manipulate us: when the old men kill themselves to save the Saviour’s life, when we see a man sweeping the streets of Singapore and another picking up garbage in Kuwait, when we are shown the women left behind in the village while the men are off earning whatever they can just so Noble-Vijay can win their case. It seems like a desperate attempt to get us to care, to cry. After a while, the over-explanation begins to irk. At one point, I actually said: Oh God, OK, we get it.

And now I come to Samantha, in a cringe-worthy and almost invisible appearance. She looks uncomfortable in the song sequences, and she seems a little insane in her other sequences. Is this a middle aged man’s re-imagining of a cute woman? I felt it might have helped the movie tremendously if her character had completely been done away with: but then a requisite amount of glamour might be required, however ludicrous it is as part of the story. Also, we have the privilege of hearing one of the most inane lines spoken by a hero who panders to his women-and-children fan base at every given opportunity: oru arai vitta odaney correct aaittaa (I slapped her and she fell for me). If you must insist on having a female lead, why not give the audience some credit and make the lead pair’s coincidental meetings a little less asinine?

And finally, I had difficulty accepting the movie’s premise: Vijay with a Master’s in Hydrology, Vijay working hard to uplift the downtrodden farmers, Vijay giving speeches about civic responsibility: it all seems implausible. I see Vijay as the kind of hero who is at his best in the fluffy territory, and when he tries to go against his own cultivated persona, it comes across as contrived – as though he himself is not quite convinced yet. And instead of being moved by what I saw on screen, I laughed out loud.

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