‘Raavana Kottam’ movie review: Shanthnu shines in an otherwise middling affair

Similar to ‘Madha Yaanai Koottam’, ‘Raavana Kottam’ also focuses on family troubles and communal tension, but unlike his debut film, director Vikram expands the canvas by bringing in a much larger stake

Updated - May 12, 2023 02:27 pm IST

Published - May 12, 2023 12:42 pm IST

A still from ‘Raavana Kottam’ 

A still from ‘Raavana Kottam’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

They often say that a new filmmaker has had an entire lifetime to come up with their first script, but just a small gap before he/she can come up with the next. This feels like the only explanation for many directors’ sophomore attempts rarely matching the style and substance they showcased with their first film. Despite a gap of a decade after his debut with Madha Yaanai Koottam (MYK), Vikram Sugumaran’s latest film Raavana Kottam, starring an earnest Shanthnu, suffers from this sophomore curse.

Raavana Kottam (Tamil)
Director: Vikram Sugumaran
Cast: Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, Prabhu, Anandhi, Ilavarasu, Sanjay Saravanan
Runtime: 129 minutes
Storyline: The quest for power leads to two factions going against each other without realising that they’re mere pawns in the game called politics

Similar to MYK, Raavana Kottam also focuses on family troubles and communal tension, but unlike his debut film, Vikram expands the canvas by bringing in a much larger stake. The film sheds light on Prosopis juliflora (Seema Karuvela Maram), the impending aftereffects of it in the Ramanathapuram district and the more perilous politics behind it. Bose (Prabhu) is a village head and the most prominent voice of ‘meltheru’ and he is the saviour of the masses along with his best friend Chitravel (Ilavarasu), the leader of ‘keezhtheru’. Thanks to their friendship, the men from their families, Senguttuvan (Shanthnu) and Madhimaaran (Sanjay Saravanan) respectively, are also compadres. Trouble brews in the form of politicians who, in an attempt to plant their party flag in the village, employ the age-old ‘divide and rule’ approach and create a rift between the two factions.

A still from ‘Raavana Kottam’ 

A still from ‘Raavana Kottam’  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On the surface, Raavana Kottam is a story about love, and friendship and is the epitome of our country’s expression of harmony in the mantra ‘unity in diversity’. But digging a little into it will show the conspicuously displayed caste pride. Despite Vikram choosing not to use any caste surnames to denote his characters like how he did with MYK, the power those from meltheru wield over the oppressed community of the village is apparent. Despite being an important voice, Chitravel keeps indicating to his folks why Bose is their “ruler”. He points out that it’s Bose’s forefathers who gave their faction the land that they now own. When the younger generation from his faction points out how it’s Chitravel’s ancestors who toiled hard to make those lands fertile while those from meltheru reaped the benefits, the conversation abruptly ends. While the film attempts to maintain a sense of balance between the two factions, those from meltheru, to which our hero belongs too as well, end up being the bigger folks with their actions.

ALSO READ: Actor Shanthnu on ‘Raavana Kottam’ and turning over a new leaf in cinema

But the deep-rooted disparity, like the seema karuvela shrubs it tries to talk about, is the least of Raavana Kottam’s problems. The film suffers from superficial writing. While the face-off between the folks led by Sengu and Madhi is sure to remind the audience of films like Thevar Magan, the love triangle of sorts between them and Indhira (Anandhi) will bring fleeting glimpses of Kadhal Desam and Vijay’s Shahjahan. When a tertiary character indoctrinates thoughts into the mind of Madhi that causes him to fall for Indhira and hate Sengu, it leaves you gasping at how one-dimensional the characters are. Speaking of which, did I mention Indhira’s mother who, because of living in the city for a few years, is always seen holding a portable fan and speaking broken English? While the film’s attempts at humour don’t evoke laughter, it’s the unintentionally funny moments during serious sequences that left the audience I watched with laugh out loud.

Shanthnu’s acting, along with music director Justin Prabhakaran’s compositions, seems to be some of the very few saving graces of Raavana Kottam. The actor’s attempts in the world of OTT, like Paava Kadhaigal and Kasada Thapara, gave him the opportunity to explore roles with more depth. This continues with his character in Raavana Kottam which gives him a decent space to explore a range of emotions that he pulls off quite well. But the film doesn’t offer enough meat. There’s a scene where Sengu apologises to Indhira for kissing her without consent. In another, we get a monologue on how the shrub destroys water sources but those in power won’t get rid of it because of how it can be a goldmine for corporate companies akin to methane and hydrocarbons. These few steps towards a well-intentioned story are ravaged by the rest of the film which fails to concentrate on one of the several issues it comes up with. On the whole, Raavana Kottam is a middling attempt that despite sporting a brilliant cast, comes short of what it could’ve potentially been because of a shallow plot and dismal writing. Shanthnu deserved more and so did we.

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