Have you ever wondered what a drishyam/papanasam would look like if it were jai instead of mohanlal or kamal haasan? not sure if there could be a more random thought, but this is exactly what director susienthiran develops in his latest direction, kuttram kuttrame. there are a lot of rhythms in kuttram kuttrame which are similar to jeethu joseph’s direction, but this movie is its own beast and quite interesting.
kuttram kuttrame could be called phase 2 of the susienthiran cinematic universe. After a few rather lackluster theatrical outings, susienthiran returns with a film that is largely set in the same universe as his 2021 film, eeswaran. by the way, the protagonist is also called eeswaran, and the movie stars bharathiraaja in a pivotal, albeit different, role. the film begins with three deaths that occur over two decades but are connected by date. Chekov’s gun is put to excellent use in the third act and it’s impressive how the writing organically gets to the point without overtly insisting on coincidence.
Cast: Jai, Harish Uthaman, Bharathiraaja, Smruthi Venkat, Dhivya Duraisamy
streaming on: amazon prime video
While the movie opens with three deaths, it’s the fourth one that follows shortly after that gets the ball rolling in this tense 100-minute film. Eeswaran’s wife, Kokila (Dhivya Duraisamy), is found dead one morning after an overdose of sleeping pills. jai’s sister, niece priya (smruthi venkat) and kokila’s parents believe it to be a case of suicide. However, Kokila’s uncle Naatraayan (Harish Uthaman), who is the local police inspector, suspects foul play and wants to investigate Eeswaran and his family. When the investigation faces a series of obstacles, he calls in the retired DSP Muthukaruppan (Bharathiraaja) to get to the bottom of things.
Unlike a drishyam, we don’t know if the eeswaran of jai is really innocent. when asked by local bigwigs if he was really behind his wife’s death, a poker-faced eeswaran says: “naa unmaiya sonna, naalu peru baadhika paduvaanga, unmaiya marachaa oruthanga mattum dhaan baadhikka paduvaanga” (if i’m telling the truth , four people will be affected, but if I hide it, only one has to be affected). it is almost like a play on the famous nayagan dialogue. With Eeswaran’s innocence settling into a pretty gray area, it all depends on Muthukaruppan’s investigation. however, it’s not the best of investigative processes because all muthukaruppan does is sit down with a group of suspects and ask a trick question just in time for the characters to experience a flashback. Thankfully, this lack of investigative tension is made up for by Susienthiran’s way of getting to the bottom of what’s going on. I also liked how there’s a thin layer of dark comedy that adds lightness to the grim nature of the film.
With ajesh’s music reinforcing the narrative, kuttram kuttrame sticks to a rather calm tone that works very much in the film’s favor. this sadness is also seen in the images of velraj. Considering how the film unfolds during a funeral, there is an unseen clock in the background that provides a wonderful sense of rush, which permeates the film. it’s almost as if the events on screen are unfolding in real time even though the narrative shifts between timelines with uncanny ease. another impressive aspect of kuttram kuttrame is how the global pandemic is used in the background. this is something that was also seen in susienthiran’s eeswaran. unlike the str-starrer who had the pandemic as a major plot point, this time, considering how the world has almost accepted the pandemic, kuttram kuttrame has people wearing masks, without focusing too much on that appearance. he points to susienthiran for setting up the pandemic through his movies, and it’s something you don’t see in many other major movies released in the last two years.
With multiple stories told one after the other, it’s up to Jai and Harish Uthaman to hold the film together, and they both do a commendable job. just as kuttram kuttrame can be considered a decent comeback for the filmmaker, it also does a similar service to jai’s career. As an eeswaran, he is as tough as the role requires him to be, and he also brings a quiet sense of sympathy to his performance. The fact that Harish Uthaman is the star of his show should no longer come as a surprise, as his consistency has been admirable over the years. we also have the old trope of two women fighting over one man, but there’s also a twist that somehow manages to introduce a semblance of novelty into the template. while smruthi’s character arc allows us to get more involved with her, dhivya is given quite a raw deal, but gets a chance to redeem himself in the last act, and the actor manages to do so.
Despite being billed as something of a crime novel, kuttram kuttrame functions more like a family drama, but keeping your cards close to your chest makes susienthiran direction appealing. It may not be an effective investigative thriller, but it really didn’t want to be. it may not be a compelling family drama, but it’s okay. it may not be the intense love triangle the movie suggests, but thankfully, it feels like the right thing to do. it may not be the murder mystery one might think it is, but it’s a murder mystery we really didn’t think it would be. basically, as susienthiran neatly ties several strands together into a beautiful little bow to give us a surprisingly effective film, which acts as a reminder that the biggest kuttram we can do is write off a filmmaker who gave us movies like vennila kabaddi kuzhu , azhagarsaamiyin kuthirai, naan mahaan alla, pandiyanaadu andjeeva.