Kazhuvethi Moorkkan begins with illustrations and a voiceover about the horrific practice carried out in ancient Tamil Nadu, where those on death row were impaled by putting them on a stake or a spire that went through their body vertically. The graphic details are necessary because Kazhuvu in the film’s title Kazhuvethi (the one who puts someone on the stake) denotes the spire. So, the title gives away what the hero will do in the climax. While there’s no shock involved here, the film’s depiction of the intricacies of the caste system and its place in contemporary politics is quite surprising. Director SY Gauthama Raj does not hold anything back while criticising the casteism that exists not just on the top level of Varnashram but even at the bottom. Kazhuvethi Moorkkan is perhaps the first film to do so in the anti-caste film movement in Tamil Nadu, which started with Pa Ranjith’s Madras (2014).
Right after the release of Kabali, Pa Ranjith, in an interview with a Tamil TV channel, had said that there’s no use of Ambedkar being born in a socially backward class anymore. He said Ambedkar should come from the upper class of society, which would bring about a change. Kazhuvethi Moorkkan has a similar premise. Moorkkan (Arulnithi) belongs to a dominant caste in Ramanthapuram. The caste names in the films are not said out loud for obvious reasons, but the actor’s moustache is a giveaway. The film delves into even the politics behind the moustache. Bhoominatha (Santhosh Pratap), Moorkan’s beloved friend, who belongs to the oppressed community, points out that one has to belong to a certain caste to even grow a big moustache as Moorkkan. In another instance, an ageing bank security guard, who is ordered to get rid of Moorkan, pleads to him secretly to leave without causing him any trouble. The guard points out how they both have the same kind of moustache, which is the only qualification he has for the job. The brilliant writing exposes the frailty behind the twirling moustaches.
Bhoomi is a social activist, who works for the progress of his community. On the other hand, Moorkkan is a jobless ruffian, who stands up for Bhoomi whenever he has to. Their friendship is odd in the eyes of the rest of the villagers and even irritates the upper caste people. When the poster of an upper caste leader is torn and soiled, Bhoomi ends up facing the wrath of the leader (Rajasimman), who schemes to separate Moorkkan and Bhoomi. Things go as per his plans but when Moorkkan finally realises he was played, he seeks revenge. Perhaps, at the core, there’s no novelty with respect to the story of the film. Starting with Seevalaperi Pandi (1994), many films over the years have had similar plots of betrayal and exile. But Kazhuvethi Moorkkan stands apart because of its politics, which gives a cross-sectional view of the relationship between caste and politics in Tamil Nadu.
The top leader of the dominant caste brings both members of the ruling and opposition parties to hunt down Morkkan. He says, “Be it the ruling party or the opposition, at the end of the day, it should be us at the top.” It reflects the condition of the current parties–even the ones that claim to be progressive. The film also brings out the absurdity of fights between the castes. Moorkkan screams, “Neenga oruthan thalaiku mela irukeenga nenachutu irukeenga… neengala oruthan kaaluku kila than nu sollitu thirirainga (You claim to be standing on top of someone’s head… but the ones above you claim you are under their foot).”
Yet, for all the complexities in the writing, the film needed much better craftsmanship. Instead, from editing to D. Imman’s abysmal background score, the film is let down by its technical crew. There’s a lack of seamless flow with the scenes, and in many instances, it becomes pretty shoddy with choppy edits. On top of that, the background score is painfully generic and melodramatic. There is no innovation but template sounds that just flatly denote the mood of the song instead of complementing it–the kind you see in TV operas. Lastly, Tamil directors are under no compulsion to write romance if they are bad at it. More so, when the whole affair doesn’t add any value to the main plotline. Gauthaman goes out of his way to make Dushara’s character relevant to the story, but it only impedes the screenplay. The intention here is right, but the execution falters– that applies to the whole movie.
Kazhuvethi Moorkkan movie director: SY Gowthama Raj
Kazhuvethi Moorkkan movie cast: Arulnithi, Dushara, Santhosh Prathap
Kazhuvethi Moorkkan rating: 2.5
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