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Kaaka Muttai and what the film will show but not tell

Vikram Kilpady
Vikram KilpadyJun 10, 2015 | 15:20

Kaaka Muttai and what the film will show but not tell

Kaaka Muttai (Crow’s Egg) is a breath of fresh air conditioned air. It has laughs, the urchin-baazi and the tragedies in urban life. The object of the lead actors' attention in the film is the humble everyday eatable which is de rigueur when out with the children in any city in this country. Unlike the formulaic overdoses on celluloid, it leaves a lot of things unsaid or blank for the viewer to fill in.

The film is a no-holds barred entertainer which doesn't bother with the minutiae of the lives of the characters. The family is poor, the man of the family is an under trial and is unable to cough up the money to get him out on bail; they live in a slum, poverty looms like the proverbial spectre but there's joy in everyday things. But no, there is no talk of BPL families. Sweet. The audience itself was tittering both at the authentic Chennai cheri lingo superlatively relayed by the tight subtitles for those who can't follow Tamil.

Is Kaaka Muttai the realisation that the trickledown theory of neoliberal economics is dead? Is it the death of equality for all income classes? Is it the death of the socialist bandwagon which revives itself through Tamil Nadu in unique ways like the distribution of TV sets just before the election and which is depicted in the film? The rice and essentials of the PDS can be substituted by the contraption that will show images of affluence and hopefully spur the slum-dwellers achieve economic well-being by making them aspire for things they can't afford.

The cinema hall is a quiet place when the obvious income disparities play themselves on the screen. The filmmaker manages to make his point with comedy as well, the part involving a stray pup. The protagonists' well-to-do buddy has a real G-shock while they make do with a plastic watch-lookalike. Aspiration, aspiration.

The grandmother of the two lead actors tries her hand at approximating a pizza with a dosai, yes dosai and not dosa, which the kids spurn but their pup doesn't mind a bite of. Jugaad, dosai for pizza. She also explains the title of the film, why the lead actors are called Big Crow Egg and Small Crow Egg. Protein is the same in any bird's egg, she tells the protagonists' mother, when there's no money to buy eggs that are increasingly dearer. Chief ministers against serving eggs in the noon-meal scheme, please note.

Eating an egg every day is a big ask for slum dwellers, that's why the boy climbs the tree in the cauterising Chennai heat to snatch two eggs from the crow's nest, of course leaving one for the crow and snapping the other two for him and his younger sibling. There's a bit of expropriation here. The crow is a bird that is seen by several caste communities as one that has links to deceased forbears. The annual puja on the tithi of the forbear's death is not over until the puja's prasad is offered to the crow in the hope that it reaches the ancestors of the offeree. The film offers no comment if it is just or not to steal eggs from the crow's nest, like it doesn't offer any remark on why the lovable boys live in a slum. The slum exists and therefore it is shown on screen.

Kaaka Muttai has one detail unsaid. In Tamil Nadu, where the noon-meal scheme was first thought up by MG Ramachandran, eggs are served at lunch in government schools. Do these kids, whose mother is a hard taskmaster, really don't go to school in a city that prides itself for making education affordable for all classes? If they did, they wouldn't be climbing trees for crow's eggs. Will they?

But the film deals with all this in the scene where a TV debate is shown in a news bulletin. In the clip, a panellist on a TV show goes on about globalisation and its effects. The anchor juts in to announce a commercial break.

Eat the popcorn, enjoy the air conditioning, the world is not a crow's egg.

Last updated: June 10, 2015 | 15:20
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