: A lecherous and feisty Chelappan rescues a naive youth named Nuhukannu from his boorish boss and takes him into his gang of friends who run a firecracker unit. However Chelappan's past soon catches up with him and sows the seeds of doubt among Nuhukannu and others in this story of love, loyalty, treachery and remorse.
: There's a scene in Arun Kumar Aravind's latest directorial Kaattu, where Chelappan (Murali Gopy), a womaniser, pokes fun at a naive and petulant Nuhukannu (Asif Ali) and hints that he visited the house of the latter's crush. It's the sort of scene in which the audience is exposed to the two sides of Chelappan - as a man who cares for his younger friend and doesn't mind pulling his leg but also as one who has a lecherous side and cannot be easily trusted.
For most of the movie, the film's scriptwriter Ananthapadmanabhan delves deep in to the characters' psyche, fleshing them well and presenting real characters with raw emotions. The movie starts off in a village in Tamil Nadu, where honour killing is followed. It introduces a few characters and the rules of the land, before the story switches to Kerala.
Here, we are let in to the world of Nuhukannu and Chelappan, played expertly by Asif and Murali respectively. The first half is entirely focused on establishing the virtues and vices of the characters and Ananthapadmanabhan presents them as they are just like the movie's landscape - rugged and brusque. The entire story is set in the late 70s and hence technology is absent. Prashanth Ravindran's cinematography pulls the audience in to sepia, spaghetti western-like tone.
As Chelappan's past catches up to him - hence linking both the stories from Tamil Nadu and Kerala - the pace picks up. But here too, the director takes minor deviations such as Chelappan's love for a pariah kite and his penchant for wagers. But by the second half, he neatly ties it all up - only the film, at 163 minutes long, takes too long to do it.
The movie's heroines Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Manasa Radhakrishnan are sparingly used. However, Asif's portrayal of Nuhukannu is ably restrained as over indulgence could well have made it frustrating. Murali Gopy too shines in his role that has grey shades, by bringing in the machismo required for the character. Unni P Dev as Pauly has a meaty role and has done justice to the character.
The film's music by Deepak Dev melds with the setting and is standout at certain scenes. It's easily one of Deepak's best works in the recent times and adds so much to the movie. While the technical department, at times, succeeds in creating an atmospheric mood of the events in the film, Arun doesn't quite have the iron grip on the story that he had in movies such as Ee Adutha Kaalathu and Left Right Left.
Kaattu might not be a breeze to sit through as the filmmaker takes his time, slowly but surely gathering enough force at the end. But it's a lesson in classical filmmaking and storytelling that develops its characters, narrates a good story and has a satisfying denouement, all without the use of any modern gimmicks.