Cast: Arya, Catherine Tresa, Super Subbarayan, Deepraj Rana
What if Tarzan were the leader of Na’vis in Avatar? Kadamban’s the regional, more simplistic, lacklustre version of this premise. Kadamban (Arya, looking ripped and chiselled) is the self-anointed protector of a group of indigenous people who have made the mountain of Kadambavanam their home for many generations. They live à la the Na’vis, with much love for the flora and fauna of their land. Even when they walk, they do so taking great care not to disturb other animals. They shed tears when a doctor injects an elephant. For recreation, they play football by kicking about a coconut. Even their expression of lust is, shall we say, a tad unrefined. As Kadamban squeezes honey out of a hive, a woman who has the hots for him stares at his hands mesmerised. The heroine, Rathi (Catherine Tresa), is no different. Her way of flirting is to draw Kadamban’s attention to a couple of snakes that are mating at a distance. Don’t ask me how I know this, but what the film shows to be mating is actually two male snakes performing a combat ritual. But that’s the least of Kadamban’s problems.
Despite threatening to do so, Kadamban never truly hits the next gear. not in any surprising manner anyway. The hero’s apparent lack of vulnerability, and a general reticent, angry demeanour makes it rather hard to warm up to him. There’s little the film brings to the overused corporate greed angle. The villain (Deepraj Rana) isn’t a commanding presence either. Despite suffering some setbacks, the going is fairly easy for Kadamban when he decides to take matters into his hand. In one scene, the villain’s two dozen henchmen stand with guns pointed at his bare chest in an open field. Kadamban, however, proceeds to run, and the evil guys exhaust all their ammunition without hitting him once. I didn’t even understand why he had to zig-zag his way into the forest, given the general shooting incompetence of his adversaries.
The film isn’t all bad though, mind you. Arya is quite good as Kadamban, the tribal whose general proclivity to being bare-chested means that the actor has plenty of time to flaunt his hard-earned physique. The film’s VFX is also as competent as they come in our films. Kadamban’s jumping from atop a waterfall; he’s swinging from mountains to procure honeycombs; he’s leaping from elephant tusks to unleash slo-mo kicks at the hapless corporate honcho… all these scenes are competently executed. Diretor Ragava also reuses ideas introduced earlier in the story—always a sign of a good writer. Kadamban and gang kicking about coconuts, the hero and heroine ululating to communicate with each other, an elephant getting saved at the beginning… All of these come back at the end, even if not to particularly entertaining effect. There’s also the dreaded lecture towards the end as Kadamban begins talking about the importance of protecting our environment, but thankfully, it doesn’t go on for too long.
As far as pamphlet films about the exploitation of capitalism go, you could do a lot worse than Kadamban, unless of course, you’re a child, in which case, I should warn you that the U-certificate the film has somehow begotten is a bit of an understatement. A corpse gets kicked about. A few men are buried alive. A bomb explodes near a baby, and sends a small boy flying. Kadamban unleashes a finishing move the makers of Mortal Kombat will be proud of, when he uses a stick and plays a full-blooded lofted straight drive on the villain’s face. If some of this thought had gone into portraying the nuances of the corporate honcho-indigenous people rivalry, Kadamban would have been all the better for it.