Soodhu kavvum / Evil Engulfs

A professional kidnapper, his imaginary girlfriend and a trio of friends who have just lost their home, are subcontracted to kidnap the son of an important politician. The seemingly simple task is however complicated by the victim’s cunning and by the unorthodox methods of the coldblooded police investigator Brammo. All of it in a satirical criminal comedy, which has become a huge hit, even without the participation of movie stars.

Trailer of Soodhu kavvum with English subtitles.

2013 – 138 min – comedy
Directed by: Nalan Kumarasamy
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Sanchita Shetty
Language: Tamil
Subtitles: Czech, English
Format: BluRay

Tamil’s Kollywood, as well as other popular cinema schools in the Dravidian part of India, is far less subject to globalization when compared to Bollywood, it produces above all extravagant masala films, which combine traditional Indian storytelling with extremely affected acting and a style rather belonging to clips. It is no surprise then that scenes from South Indian films appear as very curious to Western viewers and they often spread virally over the internet (where uninitiated users usually confuse them with Bollywood productions).

The problematic aspect of South Indian films is actually their tendency to follow the same pattern – filmmakers repeat successful methods over and over, as long as the audience can take them. It is therefore no wonder that once in a while, an inconspicuous, low-budget film, whose main asset is originality, finds its way among mainstream blockbusters. And Soodhu Kavvum undoubtedly is such a film.

This directorial and screenwriting debut by Nalan Kumarasamy, who made do with a budget of 20 million rupees (nearly 7 million Czech crowns) and a group of lesser-known actors, doesn’t follow the pattern of conventional Tamil films, which focus on pleasing the spectator with ferociously edited musical sequences and over-realistic action scenes. On the contrary it sets the film on a thought-through story with a few crucial twists. The filmmakers actually openly make fun of conventions and Kollywood blockbuster clichés: song scenes take the form of short psychedelic scenes and the usual archetype Tamil action hero – a policeman with almost superhuman abilities – is the main antagonist. But the funniest is how Soodhu Kavvum digs into the tendency of Indian filmmakers to include at all costs a romantic side story, which is often not really elaborated: the main character is in love with a woman who exists only in his fertile imagination, and who simply disappears from the story at some point. Of course under somewhat bizarre circumstances.

The at first glance inconspicuous film eventually scored mainly with middle-class audiences in multiplexes, it made a profit almost thirty times its budget and ranked among the most successful Tamil films of the year. It even earned great praise from the critics, no wonder then that several remakes into various Indian languages are currently being planned. The Bollywood remake should be made by hitmaker Rohit Shetty, author of blockbusters Singham (2011) or Chennai Express (2013), which both greatly derived from the poetry so typical for South Indian movies.

Author: Miroslav Libicher

About the director

Not long ago, Nalan Kumarasamy’s career was headed into quite a different direction – event management and real estate – but then he heard about a TV show designed to identify the hidden talents of new age Tamil directors. He went on to make 8 short films during the show, which he won with Nenjukku Neethi, his entry for the final round. Soodhu Kavvum is his first feature film.