Starring: Arjun Sarja, Arvind Swamy, Gautam Karthik, Thulasi Nair
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Mani Ratnam’s movie magic has become part of our cultural landscape in the last 30 years. Kadal (The Sea), a grim, gritty tale about a spiteful world redeemed by love, is not for the faithless. B. Jeyamohan’s story on a Christian fishing community in southern Tamil Nadu forms Ratnam’s narrative.
Thumping the Bible over sin and virtue, Ratnam eschews his formulaic beauty for the brutal truth and places that old good-versus-evil story in its Biblical context. It isn’t a pretty picture. Rather, it’s the poignant story of a whore’s child orphaned on the shore who grows up to be a bitter brat. There is hope for all souls and hence deliverance is in the form of an upright priest who wants to lead the proverbial black sheep back to the path of righteousness. A fallen angel turns into a ruthless murderer and wreaks vengeance on the priest and his flock.
Don’t expect Ratnam’s subtlety. Kadal drums up gospel truths with such alarming regularity that you wonder if this is catechism on the coast. Ratnam delivers by exacting stellar performances from his cast. It’s an impressive comeback by Arvind Swamy and his talent shines; Arjun delivers an angry and edgy role; and Gautham Karthik’s debut is well-drawn. Adiye by A.R. Rahman brings in the beauty of a choral Tamil gospel and blues melody and Rajeev Menon’s cinematography brings alive the many moods of the sea.
Will Kadal float your boat? For the steadfast Ratnamite, it may not.