An endearing, engaging masala tale

8

In a recent interview with us, Jiiva described Kalathil Santhippom as a proper ‘elai saapadu’, with something for everyone in the family. True to this description, the film ticks all boxes of a commercial entertainer, and what’s more, all the ‘masala’ blends together to form quite an enjoyable product.

Kalathil Santhippom also joins the small list of films whose trailers have undersold the efficiency of the actual film. This feature is quite surprising for how engagingly it spins a tale, despite having the usual template elements. The songs aren’t exactly foot-tapping, the one-liners aren’t worthy of being T-shirt captions, and the visuals are also not exactly spectacular. What sets this film apart, however, is its coherence. The screenplay has barely any flab — even the customary hero-buildup fights go with the flow of the story.

Cast: Jiiva, Arulnithi, Manjima Mohan, Priya Bhavani Shankar

Director: Rajasekhar N

Anand (Arulnithi) and Ashok (Jiiva) are simple men doing simple jobs. Their lives are simple, as are their aspirations. We don’t even have the customary villains here. Instead, the conflicts arise from misheard conversations and the wrong people being at the wrong place. Even though these conflicts keep popping up till the end, they don’t feel forced, thanks to grounded and satisfying resolutions.

Amid all this is the body-shaming of a bride, in the name of comedy, that made me squirm. Thankfully, damage control comes in the form of a dialogue in the very next shot and the film goes on to remain harmless till the end. However, the fact that fat-shaming was still done, complete with elephant-like trumpeting in the background, still rankles.

To be fair to the film though, it does try and lend its women plenty of agency. The ‘heroines’ here aren’t on the screen just to look pretty. I really liked the scenes where Manjima’s Kaviya takes control of her love life and Priya’s Sophiya shuns the sympathy of others and chooses to remain independent. I also liked the effort that has gone into the writing of supporting characters. It has been quite a while since we saw such characters fulfilling arcs, or even semblance of purpose in a commercial film. Kalathil Santhippom gives them rightful space with well-defined boundaries. Even when these characters switch to being serious right after a joke, or crack a joke during a serious scene, the shift never feels jarring.

The two love tracks in Kalathil Santhippom are rather uneven. While the better romance, despite its endearing nature, ends too soon, the other one, whose intensity the story heavily relies on, is brought down by some bad dialogues like, “Naan national meet-a cut adichadhe unna meet panna dhaan!” The friendship portions, meanwhile, hit the mark effortlessly.

The protagonists interestingly share a good rapport with each other’s fathers and call them ‘appa’ and not ‘uncle’. Even after an insulting episode, Arulnithi takes the liberty of gorging in Jiiva’s kitchen. Scenes like these, and the complementary performances of the leads, make us actually buy that these friends would go to any extent for each other.

Somewhere in between star vehicles, which are best watched with a loud crowd, and genre films, which are better watched alone, we seem to have lost the simple entertainers that cater wholesomely to the family audiences. Kalathil Santhippom is a nice reminder that the charm of these simple films is intact.

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