Aadukalam and Ko – Deformed twins!
I am writing this, irrespective of the facts that Aadukalam has bagged a few national awards and Ko happens to be the biggest blockbuster of the season. I don’t want to be a judge of the judges but a simple observer spinning out my thoughts like a spider as I might compare and contrast both these ventures along the way with quite a few insights into them.
The first reason I chose to write about both these films is the nature of their screenplays: Ko, the K.V.Anand spectacle as I would like to call it, is made from a screenplay which is overcooked beyond the need, while the screenplay of Aadukalam, the rustic and enigmatic second Vetrimaaran film, is of which still needs to be worked in order to make a complete sweep. In many aspects, Vetrimaaran’s film is far ahead of Ko which holds the screen story lifted from the Russel Crow starrer, State of Play. K.V.Anand is another victim fallen prey to the devil while waiting for his muse. To talk of how close the screenstory of Ko to the original would require me to pen down another article which I personally would hate to write. I am going to continue with my arguments assuming that Ko is another movie where the writer’s creative juices are abound.
Vetrimaaran’s film aptly titled Aadukalam is one of the most original movies ever made in the arena of Indian cinema due to the due credits given at the end titles under the heads filmography and bibliography as any research scholar would do. Like a novel, Vetrimaaran has split his film’s screenplay into two equal halves. In the first part we get to know about the prime characters, their locale and what rooster fights mean to them. The latter half portrays how a single man (Pettaikkaran) manipulates the situations to throw his traitors (as he thinks so because of the incidents in the earlier half) into the ring instead of the roosters for a change. This is where the metaphor of the rooster fight becomes complete in itself and the script justifies its title, whereas I don’t see any serious point in titling Ko as Ko. Ko is more of an urbane film which wonderfully takes us behind a photographer working in a reputed newspaper. For major parts its adventurous and action packed till the end which brings the photographer and his politician friend to terms. Ko is carried by a very thin line of story which is embellished by twists and shockers, which seem to work overtime.
Coming to the core of my argument, Aadukalam’s screenplay based on the metaphor, fails to ferry it throughout the movie reducing the genius of Vetrimaaran only to flashes. Considering the whole story as a metaphor, say the first half of the movie is the vehicle and the rest is the tenor. Vetrimaaran has worked out his vehicle to an exceptional extent much better than the tenor. The rooster fights, the cult behind it, blood thats wasted, lead’s romance and the Don’s grudge are fit well into the box of the first 83 minutes. But the remaining part, the tenor, seems to be very ordinary and with poor plot points falls short of its destination. This makes us to conceive that once again this is a cliched gangster story but in a different milieu. I am not going to bring out my perspective of how the second half should have been as it would cost me a script (atleast half of it). For instance, the anagnorisis or the way in which Karuppu learns that both he and Dhorai were tricked by Pettaikkaran is too bland and reveals the writer’s block. Aadukalam is a symmetrical movie which fails to establish its symmetry. Too much of creativity in the first half and the lack of the same in the second half makes aadukalam’s screenplay incomplete, forcing me to call it an artistic failure. Jumping on to Ko, which is totally different from the Dhanush starrer has got too much of interlinked scenes which irritate the keen observer to a large extent. In the first place, the hidden information that Vasanthan is an old chum of Ashwin is higly idiotic and unnecessary and sits on our nerves. Similarly, the screenplay wobbles while portraying the characters of the actual politicians inorder to provide the necessary deviations to strengthen the best of its plot points. Also in a song sequence we see a bunch of shots hinting us of a relationship between Vasanthan and Renuka which are carried no further. Probably the director wanted to be true to the English original but later on decided to ignore it. Though the film is visually spectacular, once after the second act, we realise that too much of scenes have been shot and the editor has been breaking his head to make them coherent like the sub plot we discussed earlier might have been removed but not without the traces. Though both are flawed, the screenplay of Aadukalam is superior to Ko, as the latter only attempts to ape the screenwriting techniques of hollywood.
Like there are some bad misses even in a batter’s innings of a lifetime, there are questionable sections in Aadukalam’s seemingly invincible 1st half. Though created with a purpose, the romantic sub-plot which is undoubtedly a commercial addition to this middle cinema (as Mr.Vetrimaaran calls it) fails to play its role as a catalyst. As the plot begins to unravel with a voice over narrated by an omniscient narrator (How come a character from inside the story- Dhorai has got the same voice of the outside narrator?), it is told to us that everything started when once there was a rooster fight conducted outside the town. From there the story is propelled by a chain of events, making the ‘incidents’ essentially to be emphatic to carry the complex story forward. When Vetrimaaran tries to do so with scenes involving the rooster fights and the incidents involving pettaikkaran and gang it is convincing. But when he tries to do so with the incidents involving Irene, the lack of verisimilitude in the romatic subplot fails to convince us about the probability of the scenes. When Karuppu borrows a few bucks from Irene, she pesters him to return it which forces him to get on to the rooster fight against Pettaikkaran’s wish with the cock he has supposed to be killed. Here Vetrimaaran has established from the beginning that his love is as important to Karuppu when he cuts his hand and says ‘my love is true to this extent’ followed by a hackneyed pathos song. Adding to this later on we don’t see Karuppu taking Irene that seriously and going ahead. So it becomes a big question mark if he would go to the extent of opposing Pettaikkaran fuelled by the call of Irene pleading for money. The Irene subplot which supports the film stupendously from the commercial perspective fails miserably when not tied up primly to produce the intended effect in the first part of the second act. Another thing is the establishment part, which is too weak where we get to know a few important information and emotional ties very late, resulting as a blackmark in the subconsious of the audience. Looking at Ko, once again the romantic sub plot plays the spoil sport here too. The love episode between Renu and Ashwin is as foolish as it would appear in a dumb show without any emotion but only for a few laughs. On the other hand the portrayal of Ashwin is that of a superman’s and with his actions questionable, he is no more than the writer’s puppet. One good example of what a writer should never do is been shown to us in one of the plot points in the third act of Ko. When Ashwin tries to tell Vasanthan that the guy who was talking to him just then is actually the murderer and the bank robber, Vasanthan mysteriously brushes him away by replying that he’ll send the cops soon to get him. Immediately Ashwing goes to the naxalite’s hideout and spies when the police arrives there. Ashwin has not learned anything about the naxalite between the previous scene and the present scene. As per his friend’s word he has sent the police to wipe out the naxalites. As if possessed, Ashwin begins to travel as per the writer’s wishes and offers to save the naxals for no real reason except for the writer’s intent to move the plot forward in such direction. This particular blunder pushes Ko down headlong into the sea of errors similar to the way Aadukalam has got a character with the voice of the narrator when it is not the storytelling character. Once again these seem to be developed as a result of script-overworking or carelessness due to the confused writer who was probably lost in the various drafts of the screenplay.
At the end of the film Aadukalam, the one big question which I had was, why did Karuppu who is so loyal to Pettaikkaran to the extent of protecting his reputation by spoiling his own would go against his instructions in the first part of the second act (where he appearingly talks ill of Pettaikkaran to one of his comrades)? Similarly, many vital scenes in the film are quickly passed away in order make them more authentic (Even the plot points for that matter). But actually this doesn’t work as the scenes get pitched poorly somewhere between realism and naturalism failing to enthrall the audience though it has got the right charms underneath them. Ko on the other hand, is far away from being real or natural which is typical of its genre and is rot by too much of its commercial spells.
Irrespective of the pitfalls, Aadukalam walks tall with its amazing fortes. The amount of research done by the makers of the film is unbelievable and more than that it never hinders the flow of the plot as it happened in Ayan, K.V.Anand’s far better previous film. The dialogue is stunning in both Aadukalam and Ko in their own ways. One instance from Aadukalam would be “Ethana ‘trip’ solrathu?” We realise there are a number of expressions in our langauage that have not been explored by our dialogue writers. A well written bunch of dialogues spoken by wonderful actors can work big time as in Aadukalam. Though the culture and the slang of Madurai have been hackneyed to death by Tamil movie makers, Aadukalam is a brand apart from them. Dhanush’s change of body language to become Karuppu is amazing and nowhere he shows any interest to be Dhanush.The visual splendour of Ko is one of the best Tamil audience have ever seen and the only worst part here is that the best of Richard Nathan’s camera works are wasted on songs.
It is for sure that Tamil cinema has turned its head in the right direction for the future, but it certainly needs better creators to ride it ahead. People may be happy right now with imported stuff, but when the most original is made in celluloid here,they would definitely avoid them and go for what is not stolen. Men who rave about piracy must think about the pirated content in their own productions since there is no point in arguing about the integrity in the sales of stolen goods.