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Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Kaduva is a typical male-centric commercial Malayalam film – overwhelmed, clichéd and obsessed with establishing the superhuman strength of a male protagonist.

The ancient Chinese may have built the Great Wall of China, but could they have retained their world through a full fledged fight scene in a Malayalam movie?

The 8th wonder of the world that hasn’t received the global attention it deserves is the world, the unstitched garment in the form of a white/cream sarong from South India. As a child born and raised in the north, I used to spend my summer school holidays in Kerala wondering how the world worn by Malayali men do not fall off as they do not wear petticoats under them. When I finally asked, I was told that some men use belts to secure the world around the waist, but some – hold your breath! – don’t. It took around 20,000 workers to complete the Taj Mahal. It takes a Malayali hero to keep his mundu intact while taking on dozens of opponents in multiple confrontations over the 2 hour and 35 minutes of Kaduva (Tiger).

OK, don’t get mad at me. You’re right – I’m flippant. But to be fair (to me), how is a serious review possible for a film in which the sound of a big growling cat in the background is the signature of the leading man, he repeatedly poses – Pulimurugan-style – like a feline crouched on the ground ready to pounce on its prey, its swagger extends from its gait to its mannered speech, and it soars through the air as it strikes at its foes?

Kaduva is directed by 1990s and early 2000s hit machine Shaji Kailas and written by Jinu V. Abraham. It is a male-centric commercial Malayalam film obsessed with establishing the superhuman strength and prowess of a male protagonist.

In the background, overshadowed by punches and speeches, is this story. In a church in Kerala, two powerful parishioners clash. One is a wealthy businessman, Kaduvakunnel Kuriyaachan aka Kaduva played by Prithviraj Sukumaran. The other is a politically well-connected high-ranking policeman, Joseph Chandy, played by an unexceptional Vivek Oberoi whose career in Malayalam cinema seems set to resurrect since he more or less disappeared from Bollywood.

Kuriyaachan’s habits are a matter of local lore: he drives a Mercedes, smokes cigars, wears only world and white kurtas. He is also feared for his record of violent discipline against wrongdoers. He fights for much of the story, but we know he’ll eventually outwit his enemies because, well, he’s the hero and it’s that kind of predictable movie.

The plot doesn’t matter here. Instead, dominating the narrative is long – oh so long! – sequences of Kuriyaachan beating up groups of men, often in slow motion; Kuriyaachan walking in slow motion; Kuriyaachan delivering grandiose dialogues that seem to force him to speak in slow motion; low angle shots of Kuriyaachan perched on hood of vehicle and crossing his legs in slow motion; close-ups of Kuriyaachan’s eyes going through the natural blinking process in what looks like slow motion; close-ups of Kuriyaachan’s hand with a ring topped with a tiger carving, as he clenches his fist in slow motion (guess what?).

Just to be clear, movies featuring impossible action and a side story can be fun. But not when the stunt choreography is recycled from a million other movies and the same limited stock runs on repeat throughout, as it does in Kaduva.

Kaduva Movie Review Caution Panties Exposed

The media reported that Kaduva is based on a true story of a Kerala businessman who went to court accusing the film of potentially defaming him. A life that inspires a movie was surely going to be exciting, but Kaduva only occasionally. For the most part, it’s cliched, overly dependent on Prithviraj’s screen presence, has no time for women, and is filled with talented actors such as Samyuktha Menon who have next to nothing to do. The film could also serve as a source for an underwear museum as the villain after world-the clothed villain is sent flying through the air or crashing to the ground in positions that expose their panties.

That said, Kaduva is far from the worst we have seen of this kind of cinema in various Indian languages ​​or in Malayalam in particular. Kuriyaachan, for example, does not equate sexual harassment with courtship or treat women as property. Kaduva is loud but not deafening, and its ubiquitous fights are, surprisingly, not gruesome and spattered with blood.

Considering this, Kaduva might have earned the description “harmless” were it not for a passage in which the hero, supposedly a devout Christian, states that he does not believe in the New Testament of the Bible and prefers the saying “eye for eye” in the Old Testament. Christianity derives from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, which are recorded in the New Testament where he is quoted, among other things, as saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist the wicked. But if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek to him. This Bible passage greatly inspired Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence). At a time when mob violence is openly encouraged by Indian politicians, such a line of a popular star playing a hero, not an anti-hero, cannot be taken lightly.

If it wasn’t for that, Kaduva could have been seen as a harmless, mass-targeted tariff. Despite its many bored passages, there are a few places where I laughed out loud at the filmmaker’s audacity to portray such implausibilities with conviction and Prithviraj’s ability to pull off such exaggerated dialogue and gestures with an impassive face. It’s also hard not to be swept away by the tide of Jakes Bejoy’s contagious energy. Pala Palli Thiruppalli to which Kuriyaachan and a huge crowd dance with gay abandon at a massive church festival spectacularly filmed by Abinandhan Ramanujam.

A few pieces of Kaduva are even unintentionally amusing or insightful. Like the discussion among the high clergy about giving a delinquent priest a punitive posting in Uttar Pradesh or elsewhere in northern India. Take that to all of you in the North who view the transfers to the North East as the government’s ultimate rebuke to an errant, dishonest bureaucrat. Ha!

There is a lot of physical movement in Kaduva – fists and legs swing across the screen, vehicles speed up and flip, bodies spin through the air. Shaji Kailas’ storytelling remains frozen in time, however, to the 1990s when he was first brought to light, as motionless as the mundu nestled around Kuriyaachan’s waist.

Rating: 1.75 (out of 5 stars)

Kaduva is in theaters now

Anna MM Vetticad is an award-winning journalist and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. She specializes in the intersection of cinema with feminist concerns and other sociopolitical concerns. Twitter: @annavetticad, Instagram: @annammvetticad, Facebook: AnnaMMVetticadOfficial

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