‘Kalvan’ movie review: A brilliant Bharathiraja cannot save this lacklustre drama that only wastes your time

Mediocre performances, redundant non-linear narration and forgettable humour make ‘Kalvan’ a misfire of mammoth proportions

April 05, 2024 12:24 pm | Updated 12:41 pm IST

GV Prakash Kumar, Dheena and Bharathiraja in a still from ‘Kalvan’ 

GV Prakash Kumar, Dheena and Bharathiraja in a still from ‘Kalvan’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After a dishearteningly underwhelming first-quarter run for Tamil cinema, GV Prakash-starrer Kalvan is here to prove that the jading phase is far from over. What’s worse than a bad film? A film that teases you with the promise of exciting moments only for it to never deliver.

Kalvan doesn’t reinvent the wheel with its characters and their backgrounds; it follows the story of two small-time crooks Kemban (GV Prakash) and Soori (Dheena) who turn over a new leaf when they spot a destitute old man (Bharathiraja) in an old age home in Sathyamangalam and ask him to tag along with them so they can be a “family”. But there’s more to it than meets the eye as the duo’s intentions are anything but noble. If that’s not enough, the old-timer also has a past.

We get told about the Mayana Kollai festival; it ends up becoming a ruse to a typical heroine introduction. We are told about a lone elephant on the loose wreaking havoc on the village; he gets shooed away with Deepavali rockets. We expect all the interesting aspects of the plot to come together to give us an intriguing flick... but do not get anything even close to that. In fact, the film does not get into its core plot until the second half commences. The scenes until then are filled with a slew of done-and-dusted cliches. The first scene introducing Balamani (Ivana) features her in a night face mask only for Kemban and Soori, who have sneaked into her house, to get petrified seeing her. You get the drift... If you haven’t, there’s another scene where a character makes Balamani and her friend clean Kemban and Soori’s house because that is what’s expected from a family’s daughter-in-law. Where’s that elephant when you want him?

Kalvan (Tamil)
Director: PV Shankar
Cast: Bharathiraja, GV Prakash Kumar, Ivana, Dheena
Runtime: 142 minutes
Storyline: Two young men adopt an elderly person, but their act of kindness has sinister motives behind it

Even for a film that rides on cliches, it’s a pity that it still does not get the basics right. From films like Thiruda Thiruda and Pithamagan to even one of the sub-plots in Raman Thediya Seethai (2008) where the same accidental meet-cute happens for a couple like the one from Kalvan, there are countless titles where women have fallen for men who have broken into their houses. But the magic of cinema makes you look past the scenario’s absurdity and even gets you to root for them. In Kalvan, we aren’t lucky enough to witness anything like that; Balamani hates Kemban in the first half and magically loves him in the second half after he actually tries to guilt-trip her into falling for him. Is that elephant coming any time soon?

GV Prakash Kumar and Ivana in a still from ‘Kalvan’ 

GV Prakash Kumar and Ivana in a still from ‘Kalvan’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Amidst mediocre performances, redundant non-linear narration, forgettable humour and unremarkable songs, the two aspects that make you sit through this ordeal are the legendary filmmaker Bharathiraja’s phenomenal acting and PV Shankar’s lovely shots. What Shankar lacks in his work as a debutant director, he pulls off as an experienced DOP. On the other hand, the veteran filmmaker-turned-actor is making quite a name for himself as a performer. His character’s backstory is the most fascinating aspect of Kalvan and it’s a pity that it gets narrated as a monologue with a slideshow of colourfully-sketched images. We even get a shoddily-made CG tiger that transforms a fascinating sequence into something unintentionally humorous.

Kalvan was promoted as a film on elephants, and every poster had an element symbolising the animal, but we get to see very little of the actual beast... which makes our lead’s plan involving the animal more implausible. In fact, calling Kalvan an “elephant film” would be the equivalent of calling Titanic a film on icebergs and Padayappa a film on granite hills. What could have been a tale of interpersonal relationships amidst a human-wildlife conflict ends up becoming a white elephant.

Kalvan is currently playing in theatres

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.