A decade is a long time for a filmmaker to stay away from the medium. That’s how long it has been since Shaji Kailas made his last film, and Malayalam cinema has changed unrecognisably. But, in his years in hibernation, it appears Shaji Kailas has not changed. With Kaduva, he loudly proclaims that he still swears by mass entertainers.
Although the film is based on a real story, there might be more reasons why he has set his latest movie in the 1990s, a period which witnessed the release of his most successful movies and a period that ended up setting a template for a string of duds in Malayalam, some of it made by Shaji himself.
At its core, Kaduva is the story of an ego clash that crosses all limits. Planter Kaduvakkunnel Kuriyachan (Prithviraj Sukumaran) locks horns with Inspector General Joseph Chandy (Vivek Oberoi) over issues related to the local parish, which snowballs into something big enough to put the State government in trouble. Most amusing is the fact that it all begins from an old woman's donation of a piano to a church.
It would be interesting to compare the ego clash here to the one in Ayyappanum Koshiyum. While that movie initially stands with the underdog and later shows how the ego consumes him too, in Kaduva, it is a clash between two equally powerful, privileged men, one who is painted all black, and the other in all white, even in his attire.
Everything that Kuriyachan does is seen through a heroic lens, including the use of his hereditary money power to play political games, like a crude form of modern-day electoral bond. But then, everything gets justified when it comes to a rightful feeling of revenge.
The only time he is shown to be in the wrong is when he publicly insults the mother of his nemesis, an act for which his wife Elsa (Samyuktha Menon) questions him (the only time this character gets to say something of substance). But even this act is justified in the following scene, which is written just to show why the woman deserved it.
Kaduva is also the story of the misuse of official machinery to settle personal scores, and the fact that some of it happened in real life makes it even more shocking.
Jinu V. Abraham’s script does not attempt to spring any surprises, rather it banks fully on the strength of the mass scenes, of which there are some. Shaji goes back to his tried-and-tested, adrenaline-pumping methods, but not all of them work. However, these could still be welcomed by the audience who wish for more mass action movies in Malayalam.
Shaji does manage to deliver that, dipped in more than an ounce of predictability, but for those looking for some novelty, Kaduva might not be it. This is despite it being a notch better than all of the work that Shaji has done post-2000.
Kaduva is running in theatres.