Kaaka Muttai opens this Friday, many months after it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014. The movie had a good festival run after that, stopping at Dubai, Rome and a few other cities. It won the National Award for Best Children's Film and for the Best Child Artist (shared by Ramesh and Vignesh).
Produced by Vetrimaaran and Dhanush, Kaaka Muttai has been helmed by newcomer, Manikandan, who once photographed wedding ceremonies. So, Manikandan must have been tempted to handle the camera in addition to wielding the megaphone. Which he did. Not just this, but he also penned the story.
Kaaka Muttai zeroes in on two boys, brothers, from a Chennai slum, who get an irresistible desire to taste a pizza (pronounced in this part of the world as peeza) after they see an alluring advertisement on their television set, a freebie that the boy's family of mother and grandmother (the father in jail) clinches in a scheme launched by the state government to offer such goodies to the poor.
In a chat with this writer this morning in Chennai, Manikandan says the plot occurred to him when his little son got hooked on to pizzas. Manikandan's mind wandered beyond , and he wondered how could a poor child -- tempted by television commercials or huge billboards promoting expensive food and drink (aerated water, noodles, pizzas and so on) -- afford to have any of these. An added push has been the celebrity endorsement of these products, and even in Kaaka Muttai, the brothers get even more fascinated with the pizza when they see actor Simbu inaugurating an outlet and tasting a slice of the fast food.
So Manikandan set about writing a story and a screenplay.
Manikandan's scoring point came when chanced upon two actual slum kids, who agreed to play the leads in his movie -- Ramesh (12) and Vignesh (14). Having never faced the camera, they proved to be naturals, and delightfully so.
The director avers that although there have been comparisons between Kaaka Muttai and Danny Boyle's 2009 Slumdog Millionaire -- the motives are different. The hero in Boyle's work aspires to be a millionaire, while Manikandan's young protagonists have no such ambition. All they want is to taste a pizza.
Kaaka Muttai will open this Friday in India and countries such as the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It seems such a pity that this Tamil language film ought to have remained in the cans for such a long time before hitting the theatres. Sadly, this appears to be the fate of good cinema.
However, Kaaka Muttai could not have come at a more appropriate time. With Maggie Noodles in the dock, and the big stars who pushed it also facing law suits, Manikandan's work will have an added attraction.
Manikandan's next venture will be a crime thriller, called Kuttram Thandanai. The title may be changed, but the work is set to release in a month's time. "It will be very different from Kaaka Muttai," the helmer adds.