A lady who cleans houses for a living tells me about what growing up in rural Tamil Nadu was like. Life was hard for her and her kin. Her mother told her and her five sisters, that for people like them, surviving meant running away.
And so the lady ran. Ran from upper caste boys who threw stones at her; from their upper caste fathers who wanted her body when puberty hit.
Eventually, she ran away to Bengaluru. “For people like us, it’s the ultimate safe place,” she says.
In Maaveeran Kittu, the lead does a lot of running, too. He runs from a system that has repeatedly failed him. From an upper-caste woman who professes love for him. The former is about self-preservation; the latter, curiously enough, is about guilt.
When Gomathi (a fey Sri Divya) tells Kittu, her college mate and the brightest mind in their village (Pudhur near Palani), that she loves him – his first instinct is not happiness, or even anger. The would-be lover boy cannot bring himself to look at the woman opposite him. In a strange mixture of grief and shame, he casts his eyes downward.
His second instinct is protectiveness and a sense of duty towards Gomathi’s father, who has done much for ‘his clan’.
Love comes much much later. And even then the running does not stop.
It stops, rather abruptly, when Kittu steps up for his people.
Dalit history is peppered with stories such as this. Men and women, ‘Poraalis’ or ‘Warriors’, often sacrificing their very being for the greater good. Others are killed in the name of caste pride. Maaveeran Kittu has both of these stories in its narrative.
Much of the film’s trajectory mimics that of Shankar and his Kausalya. The dalit youth married an upper-caste girl from his college. Their love ended in tragedy, as many have before.
Suseenthiran prepares the audience for a similar fate from the start. The title itself is a hint.
If this didn’t seal Kittu’s fate, that scene in which Gomathi hugs him, surely did.
Suseenthiran’s film doesn’t limit itself entirely to this forbidden romance. The romance is merely a plot device to explore caste politics and its pervasive influence on the lives of Tamil people.
In Pudhur, the dalit and upper-caste factions lead distinct lives. The former live in abject poverty and servitude. The latter own land, are aggressively proud of the caste they were born into, and turn feral when it comes to protecting it.
Chinnarasu tries his best to lead the oppressed. A Dravidian man, he valiantly battles every day to bring relief and dignity to his people. He is calm, reasonable, and forward-thinking. He mentors Kittu, who goes on to score the highest marks in the State.
He disdains religion, as does Kittu. Together, they are the shining symbols of hope for the community. Examples of the transformative power of education.
Until Gomathi falls for Kittu, and the entire House of Cards comes tumbling down.
Suseenthiran writes movingly and deeply of the plight of these people. The dialogues are fiery. Sample this:
“Adimaiya Irundha Varaikkum Adichukitte Irundhaanga.
Ivangala Thiruppi Adicha Thimirunu Solraanga”
What’s more, over the course of this two-hour film, buses are torched, and people beaten and thrown into jail for small offences.
Yet, not a single tear is shed.
Much like Samuthirakani’s Appa, Maaveeran Kittu is a lesson. But a dry, boring one at that.
Instead of delivering a scorched earth type lecture from the pulpit, Suseenthiran settles for a clinical, detached look at the caste politics that underscores this all. And so the film plays on like a cat-and-mouse thriller, between upper-caste goons who want to put dalits in their place, and the man who fights for them (Kittu, played by Vishnu Vishal).
Over the years, D Imman has made a career out of churning out the same melodies. Writer Sujatha once said, “Everybody has one big idea. Everything they do after that is entirely derivative.”
For Imman, this big idea was Mynaa. The film had sweeping violin scores, beautiful melodies. Every film since has been variations on that template.
Maaveeran Kittu is no exception. Imman is not inspired enough, that much we can tell.
Neither are we.
Parthiepan leads from the front with a nuanced portrayal as Chinnarasu, the strong shoulder the dalit community of Pudur leans on. Unflattering wig aside, the actor-director is solid as the canny leader who faces off against the village’s upper-caste goons.
Vishnu Vishal, too, is effective as Kittu, an upstanding guy who dreams of becoming the first dalit District Collector. Bespectacled, he could pass off for Parthiepan’s mentor K Bhagyaraj; and does so, in certain angles.
Sri Divya’s Gomathi, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to do. As in Kaashmoraa, she disappears from this film too, after a while.
The incessant romantic songs are a hindrance. As are the needless scenes that hero-up Vishnu Vishal’s Kittu. In a film that otherwise meanders along, D Imman suddenly brings forth rap, rock, and some head-banger worthy rhythms. The scene doesn’t really warrant this build up; and it falls woefully flat, just like Vishnu’s hair.
Suseenthiran’s intentions are commendable. A few days ago, he told Twitter about the real reason he chose to make a film like this. And it’s fine. It is good.
It’s high time cinema told the stories of star-crossed lovers like Shankar, his Kousalya; and the countless men and women who were denied the basic necessities of life.
Only, it would be nice, if these filmmakers actually did justice to it. And not just play to the public sentiment. A film such as this needed a conscientious filmmaker. Not a social science teacher.
Sadly, Suseenthiran chose to be the latter.
The Maaveeran Kittu review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.