Kaathuvakula Rendu Kaadhal review: Two women love a man who is not worth fighting for

‘I like tea and coffee. I like dosa and idly. I like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. And I love you both,’ is the ridiculous reasoning that the hero Vijay Sethupathi offers two flummoxed women, played by Nayantara and Samantha.
Nayantara, Vijay Sethupathi and Samantha in Kaathuvakula Rendu Kaadhal
Nayantara, Vijay Sethupathi and Samantha in Kaathuvakula Rendu Kaadhal

A male protagonist cheating on his partner is not new in Tamil cinema. Right from Rettai Vaal Kuruvi and Gopurangal Saivathillai to Sathi Leelavathi and Veera, several movies have explored the topic, and while they were all hits at the time, we look back at them now with differently tinted glasses to realise that they were rooted in humour that was really just thinly veiled sexism and misogyny.

So, as I stepped into Kaathuvakula Rendu Kaadhal (KRK) today, I really hoped against hope that director and writer Vignesh Shivan would have shied away from hurtful stereotypes to present a refreshing take on a complicated love story. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

From the very beginning of the movie, the director expects us to sympathise with his hero Ranjankudi Anbarasan Murugesan Boopathy Oohondhiran alias Rambo, who is played by Vijay Sethupathi. Forced to leave his village fearing that his constant ‘bad luck’ will hurt his mother, Rambo grows up away from home and becomes an Ola driver by day and a bouncer by night. His life is lived in tones of duality, further represented by his only-white clothes in the morning and all black outfits in the night.

He meets Kanmani (Nayantara) during his stint as a driver and we are introduced to a bright, bold and beautiful woman who singlehandedly takes care of her younger sister and a brother with intellectual disability. Khatija (Samantha) meanwhile is a rich woman in a troubled relationship and a frequent visitor to the nightclub Rambo works at. The attraction in both instances is instant and in fact on the same day.

But as the plot moves forward, the inconsistencies soon begin to unravel. While Rambo refuses to approach Khatija boldly fearing his ill-fortune will hurt her, he seems to have no reservations in proposing himself as a groom to Kanmani. The first half is a breezy romance, as promised, and the chemistry between both pairs is a delight to watch on screen. Nayantara’s scenes with her siblings are beautifully depicted in the song ‘Naan Pizhai’ and I could have really watched even more of that tender relationship. Samantha is a crackling presence on screen and lights up the frame in all her shots, leaving you completely focussed on what she had to say. Their relationship milestones continue to progress parallelly and they seem to even finally fall in love at the same time – when Rambo protects them from problematic men in their lives.

If you ask me, the two women probably needed bodyguards, not a boyfriend. And we could have avoided all this confusion because what followed next was both immoral and irksome.

The director seems to go above and beyond to forcefully fit in the trope of the ‘poor’ male having to deal with two strong females. A series of scenes have us witness Rambo as the victim, who because of his love for two women is struggling to keep them both happy. It could not be clearer that the film was meant to be viewed through a male lens. Kanmani and Khatija are shown fighting for the attention of a man, belittling each other and at one point one of the women even slut-shames the other. And all this for a man who lies, manipulates and forces them to compete because ‘he can’t choose just one’.

“I like tea and coffee. I like dosa and idly. I like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. And I love you both,” is the ridiculous reasoning that Rambo offers two livid women who accuse him of polyamory. If this didn’t expose his immaturity, he adds for good measure that the affections exchanged with the two women were like a mother’s love for him (man-child alert).

To make things worse, not a single soul in the film seems to believe that he may have done anything wrong. Right from relatives to a neighbour he meets, he is either praised for loving two women or sympathised with for having to handle them. The main objective of the others in the film is to help Rambo seem like a ‘good man’ despite his flaws, and highly problematic devices including mental illness are adopted for the same. The women meanwhile face emotional blackmail and gaslighting. Their relationship is shown getting better, but it is too little, too late.

In one scene, a neighbour tells Rambo that women fight with each other for everything – sarees, accessories and even slippers. These were exactly the stereotypes that have been perpetuated for years, and when given a chance to break this, the film fell through.

The movie’s run time is far too long, with the plot going back and forth unnecessarily to accommodate drama that only proves to be a drag. There were several times in the second half that I truly believed the movie was ending before it actually did.

Despite this, however, KRK does have its moments. The first half of the film has several comic interludes and most of them work. Comedian Redin Kingsley’s very introduction left the audience in hoots and he makes a good pair with Vijay Sethupathi’s deadpan humour. The songs and background score by Anirudh Ravichander are already chartbusters and were a delight to listen to and watch in the theatre. The cinematography by SR Kathir and Vijay Kartik Kannan are a treat to the eyes, and right from the scenes where Rambo runs away from his village, they have you transfixed on the visuals.

Samantha has outperformed herself in her role as Khatija, bringing a vivaciousness and playfulness to the character with ease. Nayantara, while limited in her expressions, still manages to hold her presence. Vijay Sethupathi has done an admirable job in the role given to him. We only wish that when such a firecracker cast was brought together, the script was fitting for their talent.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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