SYNOPSIS: A simpleton battles against an influential individual to get justice for a 14-year-old girl molested by a minister.
MOVIE REVIEW: Kadugu is a return to form for Vijay Milton, and a make-good for subjecting us to the disappointment that was 10 Endrathukulla. As he did with Goli Soda, Milton narrates a story whose plot points are familiar, but he injects freshness into the film by giving it a unique setting and populating it with characters who are unusual and fascinating.
The central character is Pandi (Rajakumaran, an inspired casting) or as he refers to himself, Puli J Pandi. He is a folk artist, a specialist in Puli Vesham, and comes to a small town as a help to an inspector (A Venkatesh). The station already has a help in the form of Anirudh (Bharath Seeni, the director’s brother, making a confident debut), a petty criminal who is in love with a young girl. Situations result in her mistaking Nambi (Bharath), a boxer and the benefactor of the town, to be her secret admirer. And, impressed by his kind-hearted character, Eby, a school teacher, gets attracted to Pandi, and the two begin an online relationship. Meanwhile, a perverted minister’s visit to the place and his actions result in a turmoil for these characters, who have to decide between fighting for justice and staying quiet.
With a script that strikes a fine balance between being a character-driven one and a plot-driven one, Milton ensures that Kadugu remains interesting even when things start to get predictable. Take for example a sub-plot involving the romance between Pandi and Eby. Initially, we see the woman falling for this guy just because she has seen him going out of his way to help others. But later, when Milton gives us her back story and defines her character in a way that makes us root for this romance. The sharp dialogues strike a chord with us despite being a bit moralistic. Visually, Milton, who is also the film’s cinematographer, captures the coastal beauty of Tharangambadi handsomely.
Where Kadugu seems unconvincing is in showing us the transformations of Nambi (name is a subtle use of irony). All it takes for him is just a scene to turn either good or bad, and it is hard for us to buy these instant changes in his behaviour. Perhaps because it is played by Bharath, whom we have seen as a hero so far, Milton seems less sure in how he wants to portray this character. The film’s pacing feels relentless at times, and there are moments when we feel that it should have been allowed to breathe a little. And even though Milton has gone for a melodramatic tone (which is fitting, in a way, for a film about a folk artist), Anoop Seelan’s background score, at times, feels overdone, especially because the performances are already theatrical. But these are kadugu-level flaws in a film that makes its points in a persuasive manner.