Review: Maveeran Kittu gets high marks for good intentions but is let down by poor storytelling
There are some films that you desperately want to like. From the first scene of "Maveeran Kittu", I was positively biased towards it. It had a cast I liked – the quiet Vishnu Vishal and the earthy Sri Divya, who made a fantastic pair in one of Suseenthiran's earlier films, "Jeeva". The subject of "Maveeran", like "Jeeva", is caste politics and since the filmmaker had handled it with flair in his earlier outing, I was looking forward to watching the rest of the film.
Suseenthiran has said that the story is based on real life events that took place in his village. It's not hard to believe this, considering the story is set in the late 1980s and even as late as 2016, caste is alive and well in India, in rural and urban areas. However, the filmmaker appears to have taken the script too lightly, believing that his story will transition convincingly to the screen simply because it actually happened.
Vishnu as Kittu, the ambitious boy from a lower caste who aspires to become a collector, is at the centre of the film. In the village of Pudhur, his people are not allowed to walk on the road that the upper castes use; when they take the bus to go to school, get an education and move ahead in life, the jealous folks who are determined to show them their place take the bus off the route. Behind the lower caste people who are fighting back, inch by inch, stands Chinnarasu (Parthiepan), dressed always in the rationalist's black shirt that Periyar made famous.
Here's the thing though: there are no characters in "Maveeran Kittu" other than the lead pair. Everyone else is a caricature, speaking and behaving in completely predictable ways. The "villains", led by SI Selvaraj (Harish Uthaman) speak in exactly the same way as in every other Tamil film: like participants in a fancy-dress competition who reel off impressive lines of bravado rather than actual people having a conversation. This weakens the film considerably and makes its politics shallow.
Unlike a "Kadhal" or a "Sairat" that punched you in the gut with their compelling storytelling, "Maveeran Kittu" is bogged down by its need to tell the audience at every point how to feel about the scene that's unfolding before them. While D Imman's songs are pleasant enough, the background music is highly intrusive, overpowering every moment with its need to inject pathos. You yearn for a moment of silence to process what has just happened, who has said what. And the camera shivers and goes into slow-motion far too often, dramatizing every other line or movement unnecessarily.
It's this "mega serial" approach that kills "Maveeran Kittu", which could certainly have been an inspiring and moving watch, considering the broad outline of its plot. The film loses its soul because it's too busy trying to make you search yours. There aren't too many filmmakers who venture reflexively into caste territory though it is all around us, and Suseenthiran's efforts in that direction are welcome. But a participation certificate is all that one can give the director for "Maveeran Kittu".