Film: "Kallappadam"; Cast: J. Vadivel, K, Gaugin, Santhosh, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli and Naren; Director: J. Vadivel; Rating: ***
Closely following in the footsteps of meta films such as "Jigarthanda" and "Kathai Thiraikkathai Vasanam Iyakkam", comes debutante J. Vadivel's "Kallappadam", another honest and brave attempt to throw the spotlight on the trials and tribulations of struggling first-timers in filmdom by walking a tightrope between satire and tribute.
What we get to see may not be exceptional, but something far offbeat than the mainstream garbage that's thrown at the audiences every week.
In "Kallappadam", director J. Vadivel, plays a struggling version of himself. His friends and roomies are music composer K, editor Gaugin and cinematographer Santosh. All of them play their own struggling versions.
In the opening shot, we see the doppelgangers of Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth getting ready for a shoot. Everything is in sepia mode. The director explains the scene. The music composer plays the sample tune, while the cinematographer and editor discuss their respective roles. They're set for the shot and seconds before the take, we hear what appears to be the sound of an alarm.
Everything so far was just a dream in the lives of the four friends, who are so close that they dream together of making a film. The sad part is even in their dreams; they can't afford to work with any real stars.
On the door of the small abode these friends live in, it reads 'No humans allowed' written on the image of an alien. The reason it's highlighted is because there are humans; there are dogs and finally, there are first-timers desperate for a break in the industry.
Most first-timers are treated like aliens, like they don't belong here. Wherever they go, they're mostly shown the door, as they are considered naive and not willing to compromise. When Vadivel approaches a producer with a story on 'Koothu' artistes, he's asked to make something more 'commercial' with songs, dance, fight and romance. Another producer suggests him to make a hit film first and then he'd bet on his pet story. The conclusion that the director arrives at is that nobody cares how one makes a hit film. What matters the most is a first hit film.
They decide that the only way to make a film is by literally looting a producer. They target the same producer who told them making a hit film matters and not how you make it. The filmmaking process becomes the heist -- the pre-production stage is planning, shooting is like pulling off the heist, and the post-production is making the film with the looted money. And as the movie gets made with the real behind-the-scenes people, we see the glimpses of the film within a film.
The film that gets made is a tribute to the forgotten tribe of 'Koothu' artistes. What's fascinating is that director Vadivel pays tribute to these artists using the same medium that has put them out of business.
There's a sub-plot about a once successful actress called Leena. With no offers coming her way, Leena is forced to extend hand for financial support. She stays with the same producer that these guys plan to loot, and she has her own plans of looting him. But things don't go the way she plans and it clearly indicates she's out of luck. In the film industry, it's tough to survive without luck.
Leena doesn't mind sleeping around to get her job done. There's nothing wrong about it, but it's just the way she is. Lakshmi Priyaa plays Leena, and it's really bold of her take up the character that's grey as well as dirty. But who isn't in the industry?
"Kallappadam" takes satirical digs at the industry, on the films, stars and even the censor board. The intentional pause at some dialogues is like a slap on the face of the censor board members. There are also little tributes to those who lost fighting the lone battle in the industry -- like the producer who's on the streets because he made good films that never made money. After all, not everybody in the industry is bad.
With some good ideas and intentions, "Kallappadam" could've been an excellent meta film. But it still doesn't disappoint.