May 29 2012
When director-turned-actor-turned-director Sundar. C returned to direction with Nagaram after a rather long stint as hero, the gangster-themed, serious film came as a surprise since the director had earlier been known for his comedies like Ullathai Alli Thaa and Naam Iruvar Namakku Iruvar. But with Kalakalappu, his 25th film as director, he returns to familiar territory with a film where comedy trumps everything else. The film won’t figure among our best comedies but has enough laughs to keep us engaged.
Seenu(Vimal), who hails from Kumbakonam, is struggling to run his restaurant Masala Cafe, which has been with his family for generations. Helping him run the place are his aged cook and the cook’s granddaughter Maya(Oviya). Further problems are created by the new Health Inspector Madhavi(Anjali), who threatens to shut the place down. Seenu’s brother Raghu(Shiva), recently released from jail, joins Seenu and the two try to come up with some ideas to turn things around. Meanwhile, a cellphone with some diamonds stashed inside its nondescript cover as part of an insurance scam, is on its way to Kumbakonam.
Comedy always works better when it blends in with the story and revolves around characters that we care about. That helps Kalakalappu start off strongly as Vimal struggles to keep his restaurant afloat. His encounters with Anjali, particularly before he gets to know who she really is, are a lot of fun and the fun continues as they fight with one another. Shiva’s romance with Oviya is quite dull by comparison as it develops quite uneventfully but his timing and dialog delivery make up for that and he makes us laugh whether he is brainstorming with Vimal or romancing Oviya.
The importance of a story to base the comedy on becomes apparent once Vimal goes to save Anjali from her impending wedding. Though Santhanam makes his appearance with a lot of fanfare in the rather familiar role of Anjali’s suitor, the track itself has no link to the main story and the film’s comic momentum dips. Episodes like the election and the campaigning feel tacked-on with unnecessary characters and aren’t very funny. Though Shiva’s track moves the story forward back in Kumbakonam, it lacks comedy elements.
But the film regains its comic footing as the track with the diamonds merges with the main storyline after going through its own twists and turns. A cleverly choreographed, hilarious car chase where its not always clear who is chasing who, marks the start of some good, old-fashioned slapstick fun and the fun continues as a dog causes some damage, a policeman starts imagining himself to be some famous policemen in Tamil cinema and a bag of diamonds changes hands multiple times.
Vimal sticks to his low-key acting style and dialog delivery but that works here since there are enough actors around him to go over-the-top. Shiva employs his familiar deadpan dialog delivery to great effect and gets most of the laughs. Anjali shows traces of her Engeyum Eppodhum character initially as she takes control of her romance with Vimal but Iniya barely makes an impact. Santhanam, in keeping with his current popularity, is introduced with fanfare but isn’t given much good material. Ilavarsu has a lot of fun in a few disguises as he goes on the run from the police and makes us miss him when he disappears.
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