CHENNAI : Karthik Dial Seydha Yenn (KDSY) was released online three fourths of an hour after it was first announced. Thanks to Lockdown 4.0 i.e scrolling Twitter endlessly while staying home in pyjamas, I was able to watch the first show or the-yet-to-be-named phenomenon in which a lone person sitting in front a screen feverishly refreshes the page till the link goes live. Remember not-so-long ago when this was the underrated process of booking #FDFS tickets? I do too.
For anyone who is still wondering, KDSY is a short-film directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon and a sequel to his Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (VV). Actors Trisha and Simbu play unrequited lovers Jessie and Karthik, and the short is set in the original’s cinematic universe ten years after where it left off, which is…now, in the middle of the COVID outbreak.
KDSY starts off on a hopeful note. There’s Karthik, certainly looking older than we last saw him struggling to get words onto screen. The aforementioned hopeful note is a staccato, it ends right here. He’s running low on productivity like thousands of others during a global pandemic but unlike most others he’s got a quick fix to his problem — call the contact on his phone saved as ‘j’. For another person it may have been a de-stigmatising way to save the therapist’s number, in a Tamil noir film it most certainly would’ve been the gold-biscuit smuggling villain but this is Karthik in a sequel so no need to let imagination run wild: the ‘j’ is obviously Jessie, and that’s who he calls.
Another staccato: They’ve been in touch all long through phone, emails, even letters and her husband knows — she says as much. “Habba, he’s not calling her out of the blue when he has a problem,” I thought. My mind was racing so much then I’d have hands-down won a ‘Who-can-write-a-longer-voiceover’ contest with Menon, the master of voiceovers himself. “This is going to be Tamil cinema’s ‘new normal’.
Exes can be friends and rebuild mature relationships. Now we can have stories that take place beyond the happily forevers, now we will see friendships begin between those once jilted, now someone will write about a dependency that develops from the familiarity and a long ago intimacy, hell we may even have a Tamil version of Modern Family or even better an updated Raja Rani in which the exes are all alive, kicking and hanging out together; a Mouna Ragam in which Manohar’s photo has a place on the shelf along with Chandrakumar’s two loves. And no one is jealous, possessive, insecure or seeks revenge,” I was thinking, all in a flash.
But reality is a long sad tune apparently, this only a feeler for Tamil cinema’s new normal. KDSY skips no beat as it hurtles faster than my brain can process from a catch-up call to a creepy call to action (pun intended). The optimist in me fought back even after Karthik says “I need you”, in that particular way. “Give him some credit,” my heart cried. “This is a man who has let himself feel his emotions, has found the words for them, is unafraid to say them out loud to the person who jilted him with no ego or moral high ground. It’s such a rare thing to see on screen.” The realist is in my head. She said, “See, this is all too contrived — a person can love, need, and depend on someone but it’s not mutually exclusive to moving on and finding other love — it’s been ten years no? Wait till the women shaming memes come out tomorrow.”
In these matters, head over heart, I suppose, because there were those: meme after meme that extolled Karthik, the man who did not move on, the man who truly loved and continues to love (as only men can it seems) and trashed Jessie (and with her all women) for being flimsy, unfaithful, unworthy of such love. This man and woman, very heteronormative, fight versus flight trope is an old one given to us by KDSY in the most straightforward sexualised manner — the problem remains that women are expected not to be thrown off by all the speak about feet, and are discouraged from feeling any discomfort especially when the dialogue is delivered in longing, lyrical ways.
It was a dialogue from the short though that caught most meme makers’ attention; the one in which Jessie tells Karthik that he’s like her third child (she has twins now). The ‘child-zone’ is certainly new territory for cinema but if one thinks about it, is it not just a repackaging of the mother-zone, god-zone, therapist-zone, homemaker-zone, mother-of-my-children-zone that female characters have been subject to for years now? Again, thinking to myself.
Under normal circumstances, I’d have balked at the idea of writing about this film, but it’s the extraordinary circumstances we’re in that has even made the film possible. And whether one loves it or laughs at it, KDSY has made some things clear: cinema allows us an escape, offers excitement even in the most trying of times, there are characters we will clutch on to even if it’s been years since we last saw them, and a lot of us long — no, not for lost love or to be the ex’s child — but to see star-crossed lovers on cinema screens and feel the same thing as the sea of strangers once again. When you watch KDSY, you’ll know why the meta is an aspiration.