Director: Stalin Ramalingam
Cast: Vidharth, Samskruthy, Samuthirakani, Muthukumar, Thambi Ramaiah, Singam Puli
Stalin Ramalingam raises a relevant issue in Kaadu. He talks about the need for preservation of forests that provide livelihood to people living around them and maintain the balance of nature. Made with sincerity and passion, the film tries to maintain a fair balance between entertainment and a social message.
Set in a small hamlet, the locations are visually appealing. Velu (Vidharth) does various odd jobs at the roadside eatery run by Chettiar (Ramaiah) . The love affair between Velu and Poonkodi (Samskruthy, a promising find) the Chettiar’s daughter has a natural flow. There is the friendship between Velu and Karna, the latter aspiring to be a forest officer.
The director, through Velu, makes a strong distinction between the act of cutting logs for livelihood and cutting valuable timber like sandalwood for its sheer monetary value. As Velu, it’s probably Vidharth’s most inspired performance post Myna, the actor has got into the skin of the character. Velu’s life takes a turn when he takes the rap for a wrong committed by his friend Karna. The character of Karna (performed with finesse by Muthukumar), personifies the frustration and desperation of a man, who cannot afford to pay the bribe demanded to get the job he aspires for. Naren fits in suitably as the honest officer who initially falls for Karna’s smooth talk. The exploitation by officers of simple innocent villagers is well depicted. Amusing is the banter of words between Ramaiah and Singam Puli, a quirky colourful character. The rather slow pace of the film gains momentum in the second half.
In the prison, Velu encounters Nanda, a revolutionary. It’s a dramatic entry for Samuthirakani as Nanda. The actor brings in intensity and sobriety to the role of the revolutionary who is inspired by Che Guevara (he hands over Che’s book to Velu). His points are clearly conveyed, the voice used to good effect. But Nanda’s character is rather ambiguous. For, we never get to know what his fight really is, and the exact clout he wielded among the jailors.
At a point, the cruel jailor (Cheranraj) seems to mock and taunt him. While at another place he suddenly seems to be in awe of and sympathetic to Nanda.
The scenes of rows of cycles on the forest tracks, as Velu and gang transport wood in their cycles chased by the forest officers, is a visually effective scene. The interspersing shots of the cruelty of the jailor with shots of folk dance from mythology of the destruction of good over evil have a fine directorial touch. The lines are thought provoking and meaningful. The final face off at the bamboo grove is a well-made one with a poetic justice. Fairly neatly scripted and narrated, Kaadu is a very promising effort from a debutant maker.