Never before I knew of, a Tamil film not having any “star” value that was eagerly awaited by the audience like Kaaka Muttai (காக்கா முட்டை) for almost a year after its premiere. The anticipation for the film started when it got world premiered at the Toronto film festival in September and gathered steam on the news of the National Film Award for Best Child Artist for the two children Ramesh Thilaganathan and J. Vignesh who made their debut in the film. As soon as the projector in the cinema hall starts to flood the silver screen with its light, you realize this is not a stock production from Kodambakkam. You first notice the mixed-sized fonts used in the title cards, and when the cute young fellow introduces himself as “My name is Kaaka Muttai (Crow’s Egg)” you sit up, and this tempo is maintained by G.V.Prakash’s apropos background score throughout.
Everything about the screenplay in the film was about being relevant to the story which couldn’t have been any simpler. Two brothers aged around 7 and 12 who live in a slum in Chennai with their mother get obsessed to eat a Pizza after they see one being eaten by Film star Simbu when a Pizza outlet is inaugurated near their house, did they get to eat a slice or not?. Given this material any Kollywood Director would have easily hijacked the film into heroism, vilifying the rich and making the audience feel guilty. But debut Director M. Manikandan has kept the course of his film firmly grounded to the two boys and the pizza outlet pamphlet in their pocket. True to this the screenplay has yielded only a limited role to the talented Aishwarya Rajesh who appears as the mother of the boys, taking care of them while the father is behind bars. That’s all that’s to be told of the characters in the film, few other faces do appear but they disappear as soon as you blink.
The boys try their hands at various things to earn money for buying the slice of pizza, the highlight being their attempt to sell their stray dog for Rs.25,000. In one such endeavour the boys are sitting outside Chennai Citi Centre, a mall not for the poor, they smartly conduct commerce to get new branded clothes for the price of two plates of roadside Pani puri chat. It’s tempting to show the boys straying to bad habits like stealing or to show the single mother being exploited by a local politician as a favour to get her husband freed, thank GOD we are spared from seeing any of these. At the same time, Writer Manikandan hasn’t failed to leave his messages on rising social inequality in our cities, kids dropping out of primary school, and anti-social elements looking for the thinnest chance to benefit personally and these are left easy to find but never obstructing the visual stream onscreen.
As eggs go, Kaaka Muttai is never sought after for human consumption, but its namesake film is sure to see houseful shows. Thanks to Dhanush & Vetrimaaran for betting on this horse with their gold nuggets.