Crow’s Egg (Tamil, 2014)
A small routine of your life may be someone’s lifetime dream. Eating pizza may be as simple as having a cup of coffee. Here comes a bold Tamil cinema by debutant director M. Manikandan who has taken something that one might hardly consider as a film plot and woven a beautiful story around it. Yet another film has arrived that cements the gap between commercial cinema and the so called art house cinema.
Crow’s Egg aka Kakka Muttai follows the life of two slum dwelling kids of Thideer Nagar slum in Chennai metro and we follow them into their world. The mother of this brother duo is a hard working woman desperate to bring her jailed husband out of the prison. Her earning partly goes for the family’s living, her kids and mother-in-law, and the rest as lawyer’s fee. So going to school is a distant dream for the kids who don’t care about it either. Their monetary contribution to the family comes from collecting the spilled coal from the goods trains on the railway tracks and selling them.
A pizza shop opens up near their locality and the boys began to dream about tasting it. The first act of the film slowly picks up revealing the lives and hardships of the slum dwellers who share the same city that is a heaven for the affordable. Their lives are simple and straight. They have no bigger dreams other than living their day. The cost of the pizza delays the kids from realizing their dream but the kids are determined to have a bite to their dream food any way. They begin to work hard to save the money to buy pizza.
The second act showcases their varied attempts to earn money, chasing after their dream. The comedy that intertwines the entire film, especially in the middle act makes this a commercial treat for a common viewer and breaks up the tradition that a award winning film can only a critics’ darling. The black comedy that runs as an undercurrent throughout the film underlines the core theme of the film – its artistic purpose, without being so preachy about it. Even having managed to save enough to buy pizza they are chased away by the security. From their granny they learn that poorly dressed people are thought to be penny less. Learning from their well to do friend, they learn about the city center mall in the city and pledge to buy new clothes there and enter the pizza shop. The moment the stand before the mall and awe its magnificence the younger bro responds ‘They won’t allow us here inside, for sure!’, the audience blast in laughter. I would say this is the height of quality comedy. Having laughed to the bones at that instant, the pain that lingers behind that dialogue haunts the viewer later.
After the failure of the maiden attempt to enter the pizza shop their next attempt turns out even dirtier, the elder bro beaten up by the shop supervisor, they get back broken hearted only to see his granny dead. They give up their dream that vanishes in thin air. The third act opens up cinematic surprises, heading towards shift in the story line that shows us everyone’s attempts to exploit the event, blowing up into an issue, and fishing for personal benefits. The politico and the police bow for monetary benefits yet eventually and surprisingly lead to a dramatic twist enabling the boys to grab a dream bite of their pizza.
The film though had won the national award in the Best Children’s Film category, the film is obviously not a children’s film. In and out it’s a cinema for adults and the whole story is seen through the PoV of the children. The movie is about the class divide that increases widely over time. A metropolitan city like Chennai throws up umpteen opportunities to lead a lavish life to whomever capable of spending. The happiness in these metro is synonymous to one’s capacity to spend. Those who are capacious spend and those who can’t afford to it crave. Dreams are common for everyone and fill everyone, the rich and the poor alike, sparing none. Yet the pain of living with a hard to pursuable dream is an immense pain, especially at a tender age.
Kakka Muttai just throws up a slice of life of those most of us avoid awkwardly and compels us to take a look at their world. The film is no where judgmental about the characters and it just intends to showing their colours. The film’s narration is so simple and the elegance of this simplicity that is maintained throughout makes this work a must watch. It doesn’t spend much time on anything to ponder for anything that is unfolding on screen. Rather it only concentrates in showing up the different dimensions of it. The film refrains itself from telling and only shows. That’s a matured filmmaking. On the go it gives the glimpse of a number of poetic and melancholic moments of the life of this ordinary people.
The film besides doing well in the film festivals has managed to do well in the box office too. This is a very good sign. This might cheer up future ventures from fresh filmmakers in Tamil to attempt on commercially viable artistic films. The theme of the film is truly universal for the economic class divide is ubiquitous and this film can be a sure winner if made in any language of the third world countries that are at the moment the hot spots of the economic divide thanks to globalization.