Tamil film KD, screened at Asian American International Film Festival, packs in humour and emotional punches
A bittersweet cross between second-childhood and coming-of-age, director Madhumita’s Tamil dramedy KD packs both side-splitting laughs and emotional punches. On one hand, it presents an absconding octogenarian trying to live life to the fullest; on the other, an orphaned ten-year-old biting off far more than he can chew. They meet in the middle, as do the stylistic approaches Madhumita takes to each of their stories; the rhythm of youth re-discovered meshes surprisingly well with the volatile snark of adolescence.
The result is sheer delight.
Karuppu Durai (Mu Ramaswamy), a kindly, bearded eighty-year-old, wakes up from his three-month coma to overhear his children planning his thalaikoothal — a ceremonial euthanasia — while discussing the urgency of inheritance. Whether an act of mercy or desperation, it sends Durai for the hills. With almost nothing in his pocket, he boards a bus to as far as it will take him.
Seemingly destined to die alone, Durai comes across the sprightly little Kutty (Nagavishal), a temple-dwelling orphan who strikes iconic “superstar” poses and speaks with aplomb. Tensions ensue; Durai, a fiend for mutton biryani, butts heads with the young vegetarian, but they’re soon brought together by their mutual sense of abandonment — Kutty, by his parents, and Durai, by his children. Though as soon as they begin performing odd jobs for cash (Kutty’s street-smarts turn Durai into a biryani mascot for a local eatery), Durai’s family sends a private investigator (Yog Japee) to track him down.
Japee’s P.I. comes off like a bounty hunter, shot in sinister shadow. But what helps imbue his search with a sense of dread is the joy with which it’s contrasted. The stakes don’t seem all that high at first; Durai feels like he could die any day now, and Kutty is satisfied assisting at the local temple. Though as their business dynamic turns into friendship — neither one is used to such genuine affection — the duo takes off on their own little adventure to festivals nearby. Before long, the P.I.’s proximity to them is dread-inducing, given how it might disrupt the elation of their two-man commune.
Durai (or “KD,” as Kutty calls him) walks a fine line between rapture and denial. Ramaswamy imbues the character with both glimmers of mischief and occasional glances of introspection, as he attempts to figure out what, if anything, he has left to live for. Thankfully, his bucket-list has a co-author, Kutty, whom young Nagavishal grants devastating, hilarious internal life. You can see the wheels practically turning in his head as he takes in the world around him, deconstructing it into financial opportunities. With a mutual love for MGR, Rajinikanth and other Tamil mega-stars, the pseudo grandson and grandfather attend boisterous movie screenings and film re-enactments, even dressing like their favourite icons for a bit of fun.
With a bubbly score that feels like childlike mischief made tangible (you’ll probably hum it for days), the lush green countryside becomes Durai and Kutty’s playground. However, what might have been a straightforward, linear adventure is reined-in expertly before things get too indulgent. Amidst a search for Durai’s lost love as he tries to reclaim his youth, Madhumita zeroes in on the unsavoury subtext of her own story, something a lesser filmmaker might not have even recognised. As pure and necessary as their friendship may be, Durai and Kutty can’t help but feel co-dependent.
The film is never macabre, and Durai never harbours ill-intentions, but despite the film’s frequent hilarity, its central relationship still features an imbalanced dynamic. Despite Kutty’s willingness to guide Durai through independence, the old man still has a responsibility to guide Kutty in return; he’s more than just Durai’s new lease on life. He’s his own person, with a bright future ahead of him — that is, if he’s steered in the right direction.
KD is a delightful spark of a film. It exudes joie de vivre in every corner — in music, in reaction shots, even in bodily motion — but it’s also tender, and mature, zeroing in on the quiet uncertainties between all the euphoria. By the end, it offers Kutty and Durai a complete sense of life and experience in its mere two-hour runtime. It brings much-needed glee into their lives, as well as much-needed reconciliation. It’s the kind of joyful adventure that tickles both the funny bone and the spirit.
KD screened at the Asian American International Film Festival, which runs from 25 July to 2 August in New York.
Updated Date: Jul 30, 2019 19:16:13 IST