Kidaari: new genre of ‘Aruvaa Christie’?

If you’ve wondered what the archetypal Agatha Christie whodunit would look like if transplanted into Sattur soil, you have your answer in Prasath Murugesan’s Kidaari. The film begins with bigshot Kombiah (Vela Ramamurthy) stabbed in the neck. He cannot scream for help. We see his bloodied hands reach for something he can make a noise with, to draw someone’s attention. It works. He’s whisked to the hospital and we are whisked into a series of flashbacks that leave us mulling the question: So who really dun it? Could it be Kombiah’s son, smarting from a lifetime of resentment at his father’s attachment to the orphan Kidaari (M. Sasikumar)? Maybe it’s the young mother, who blames the Kombiah household for the death of her infant? Or is it one of the 2741 other suspects?

I am exaggerating, but only slightly. Kidaari keeps introducing new characters (their names emblazoned on screen like chapter titles!) almost till the end, and none of them are etched as memorably (or movingly) as the ones in Sasikumar’s last outing, Vetrivel. The revolving-door approach to the cast ensures that none of them get to do much more than show up and leave (or get carried out, in the case of the numerous people reduced to corpses). The heroine (Nikhila Vimal) exists just to cute things up, like in the scene where she creeps up behind Kidaari in order to pinch his bottom and he turns around just when her fingers make contact. (In the next scene, she wears the satisfied smile of a customer who’s really, really happy with the goods he’s sampled.)

Genre: Mystery
Director: Prasath Murugesan
Cast: Sasikumar, Nikhila Vimal, Napoleon
Storyline: A village bigshot, after surviving a murder attempt, tries to find out who did it.
Bottomline: This murder mystery needed more than flavour. It needed focus.
At least Kidaari has an interesting shade. He’s no hero, just a loyal dog of a henchman. A more alert performer might have done something with this—but is there any point, any more, complaining about Sasikumar’s revolving-door approach to acting? He doesn’t seem to do much more than show up on the sets and leave.

Darbuka Siva keeps pumping adrenaline into dull scenes with his songs (the pulsating Thalakaalu Puriyalaye can bring the dead back to life) and score, which, refreshingly, refuses to comform to the “village movie” template (it may be a new genre: Madurai mariachi-rock).

The director (also responsible for the screenplay) has an undeniable flair for pulp. I loved the unabashed hamminess of this line: “Ratham. Mannula padinjaa karayum. Manasula padinjaa kadhayaagum.” A few scenes, too, shine with writerly sweat, like the bit that goes on and on—almost Tarantinoesque in its thrall to pop culture—about a word in the lovely Chinna Thambi song, ‘Thooliyile Aadavandha’. But murder mysteries need more than flavour. They need focus. We need to be kept guessing constantly. It’s not a good sign when the story seems less interested in suspense than in sic