Kaduva Review: Shaji Kailas-Prithviraj’s mass film is too formulaic

The film is clearly written for the masses, but with so many of them being produced in multiple Indian languages, there has to be more than the basic ingredients for the narrative to be compelling.

In the 1990s, after making a few films in different genres, director Shaji Kailas had plunged straight into the heart of action cinema, where his heroes were unbreakable and no one else mattered much. Many years later when he got the script Kaduwa, Shaji took it back to a time when he was successful, the ’90s, and dropped it there. Prithviraj slipped comfortably into the black shoes and white dress of Kaduva Kuriachan, the newest of Shaji’s unbreakable heroes, who lived the life of a wealthy Pala businessman and landowner and often got into trouble. In the 90s, however, cinema was not yet called ‘mass’ Kaduwa fits exactly, written line by line, action by action, peppered with music and effects, for the masses. Only it’s too formulaic and does little to excite.

if Kaduwa is the first mass action movie of its kind you’re watching, it might work. But after receiving so many of these from different industries, there must be more than the basic ingredients. Jinu Abraham’s screenplay has the ingredients but lacks the wow factor. After an expected build-up phase by a prisoner in prison, Kaduva Kuriachan emerges in full regalia – the black shoes and the ends of the mundus are always brought into close-up in these scenes. New to the gear is a ring with a snarling face of a tiger. To complete the Kaduva effect, the background music turns into a growl each time Prithviraj decides to fight back and performs his jump kick on the enemy.

The BGM (S Thaman) is quite effective every time the hero scores and walks away or enters a scene. The stunts are designed for the fans, enemies flying in all directions as Prithviraj punches and kicks without leaving any trace of the attack on his sparkling white kurta and mundu. In a sequence that has made it to a poster, he lifts and pulls two men by each of his hands. But the story follows the formula and gives the hero a hard time before his comeback.

Watch: teaser of the film

After his time as a villain in Lucifer, Hindi actor Vivek Oberoi reunites with Prithviraj in an unflattering role. And once again, actor Vineeth Vivek’s character is dubbing Joseph Chandy, an IPS officer in the good books of the 1990s ruling government. Janardhanan plays the white-haired corrupt prime minister who resembles a real politician of the time. Other politicians in the script bear thinly veiled resemblances to their real-life counterparts. But the film had started with a disclaimer denying any reference to real-life stories, one he was forced to wear for 10 seconds due to a petition against the portrayal of Kaduva Kuriachan. A man named Jose Kurivanakunnel submitted to a court that the film portrayed his life, and the court insisted that the hero’s name be changed. The film crew forced.

However, the screenplay doesn’t have any major backstories. It’s all happening in the now, and you can watch with peace of mind that nothing bad will happen to the hero. Not even his grin – which Prithviraj wears throughout the film – is ever erased. There are no twists and turns, just a straight-forward ti-for-tat that goes back and forth between hero and villain, with cheerleaders on either side. Samyuktha Menon, who plays the lowly wife of Kuriachan, isn’t even a cheerleader. She’s the quiet, understanding wife in the sari, baking cakes at home and looking after the three children they have. The sidekicks – Alencier and Baiju – are busier than they are. Talented actors like Arjun Asokan, Priyanka Nair, Sudheesh and Karamana Sudheer have barely noticeable roles.

The film begins and ends in the middle of nowhere, extracting part of Kuriachan’s life. You can taste a bit of nostalgia when you see country phones, Doordarshan’s intro theme, and a single TV reporter in front of the CM. But the rest of the film is just a nicely edited long and unexciting script.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/movie. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationships the organization may have with producers or other members of its cast or crew.

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