KARUPPU DURAI ​- Review by Mythily Ramachandran

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Karuppu Durai celebrates life and it’s little joys

The night is solemn. Karuppu Durai, (Mu. Ramasamy), an old man lies in bed. Outside the house his family members are deep in conversation. It’s been quite a long time since their father has been in coma. With expenses mounting and the patience of the care-givers wearing thin, the old man’s children decide that it’s time to go ahead with ‘thalaikoothal’ (a traditional practice of senicide – an involuntary euthanasia of an elderly member by the family that was prevalent in south India). Typically it involves giving the senior citizen an elaborate oil bath at dawn and subsequently giving glasses of tender coconut water to drink. It will soon induce death with multi-organs failure.

Only the youngest daughter is not happy with her sibling’s decision. She protests about ‘thalaikoothal’ reminding her siblings that her father-a widower- had raised his five children alone.

Unknown to all, the old man wakes up and overhears their conversation. He is pained to hear them plan his death. Not ready to embrace death, he leaves home that night. En-route he hitches a lift on a motor-bike and boards a bus with no inkling of where to go. When the bus breaks down on the way, he takes shelter inside a temple.

The following morning the old man’s life takes on a new meaning after his meeting with Kutty, (Nagavishal) an orphan being raised by the temple priest. Kutty’s zest for life rubs on Karuppu Durai, who is christened as KD by Kutty. With a bucket list to tick off, the duo set out on a journey that celebrates life. Finding joy in little things-from tucking into a plate of biriyani-KD’s favourite food-to dancing on stage, KD even meets his childhood crush-now a grandmother.

Karuppu Durai is a heart-warming tale. Director Madhumita turns a somber subject around death into a hilarious story while exploring an unlikely bond between an old man and a little boy.

Madhumita’s writing is brilliant. Placing the story in a rural milieu, KD is a fresh whiff of air in an industry that thrives largely on stereotypes. Lending good support is dialogue writer Sabarivasan Shanmugam. The conversation and the camaraderie shared between KD and Kutty is great fun. There is a scene in the early part of the story where KD is lying in bed while his family members sitting outside are discussing his death. Suddenly they hear his little grand-daughter shouting-‘Grandpa is gone!’ The family rushes inside wondering if their father had met his end already. As the camera follows them it comes to a stop over the old man’s bed to reveal an empty bed. Yes, the old man was gone, but not into death’s arms. That was amusing.

Several hilarious moments punctuate this story. There is an air of cockiness around Kutty, who is street smart. Yet it never becomes rude. And, that makes him endearing not just to KD but to the audience too. You smile when he questions KD for occupying his place inside the temple verandah and laugh aloud when he draws out a wish list for KD. Veteran theater actor Ramasamy and debutant Nagavishal play the perfect tango.

After opening with death imminent, this story moves ahead to become a celebration of life. My favourite is KD meeting his lover of young days- the scene of the elderly pair with graying hair, catching up on their past is charming and without silly melodrama.

Cinematographer Meyyendiran Kempuraj’s unobtrusive camera follows the two oddballs on their adventures through the natural splendor of Tenkasi and Kuttralam while presenting a textured world with secret appetites and self-discovery.

With an element of suspense added into the story, -when KD’s family hire a professional to bring their old man home-Madhumita keeps the audience guessing. When curtains fall, it’s a classic scene that makes you want to throw both hands up in the air and say ‘yaay.’ KD leaves you smiling.

It calls for immense courage and faith in oneself to make a film that does not follow the regular template of south Indian cinema-often marked by songs and dances, silly romance and unbelievable action sequences. KD won director Madhumita ‘Best Director’ award at UK Asian Film Festival, London where it premiered and received the ‘Jury award’ at Singapore South Asian Film Festival.

mithilyMythily Ramachandran, a Chennai based Indian journalist, is a regular columnist for Gulf News, a leading UAE daily. When this crazy film buff is not catching up with films, she is snooping around for those little-known stories of human interest, which eventually find a place in the Weekend Review of Gulf News.

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