: People of a village go on a trip to their neighbouring village to offer a goat as a sacrifice with a newlywed couple. On a remote thoroughfare, there is an accident and a local is found dead. What happens next?
: Over the title credits of Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu, we get a therukoothu song about an entire village committing a murder — of a deer! The song is narrated as a farce, and that sets up the tone of the film, which is also about a ‘murder’ and the attempts of the people of Naduvampatti to cover it up.
Following the wedding of Ramamurthy (Vitharth) and Seetha (Raveena), the village folk get ready to leave for another village, to offer a goat as a sacrifice to their local deity. The party involves not just the families of the newlyweds, but almost everyone from the village. En route, on a remote thoroughfare, there is an accident, and they find a man dead in front of their lorry! To make matters worse, it was Ramamurthy who was at the wheels. After much discussion and deliberation, everyone agrees that it is best to cover-up this ‘murder’. But can they pull it off?
Part black comedy, part suspense thriller, part slice-of-rural-life drama, Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu is Tamil cinema’s answer to Thithi, last year’s Kannada arthouse hit, though this is a film that invites us into the world of its characters rather than asking us to remain as mere observers. We see and identify with how closely knit a group of people can be, and still remain more concerned about their own near and dear ones. Seetha’s father, for example, goes along with the plan of doing away with the corpse to save his son-in-law’s skin, but when his own son offers to take the blame for his sister’s sake, he opposes it. Similarly, when the question of someone surrendering to the police comes up, everyone decides it should be the driver — because he isn’t one among them. They even assure him they would take care of his family in his absence and even buy him a lorry once he comes out of prison!
The film’s main attraction is the bunch of eccentric characters with colourful names like Yezharai, Oor Muzhungi, Seval, Kunjukkari, Arumpaadu and Vengala Thonda. And the cast, largely comprising unknown or less-familiar actors, is wonderful. The humour is distinctly rustic and instantly chuckle-worthy, like the scene where they decide to use polythene bags as gloves to avoid leaving their fingerprints on the body.
But what is truly remarkable is how, in these times of beef bans and beef fests, and with a title that makes it seem like an explicit let’s-not-slaughter-animals-in-the-name-of-tradition film (perhaps, like the charming Saivam), Suresh Sangaiah never spells his ‘message’ out. He doesn’t demonise animal sacrifice; neither does he bat for it. All we get are a scene where a character nonchalantly telling the goat that the same fate awaits it in when he sees the goat looking at the severed head of another goat in a butcher’s shop, cutaway shots of the animal looking the same way at the crazy proceedings unfolding before its eyes, and (spoiler alert) it beginning to roam freely after being untied in the climax. And we are free to take whatever we wish to take from these shots.
But when it comes to people, the director doesn’t mind making his point, but even here, he is subtle. In a lovely visual gag in an early scene, he gives us a shot of two lorries — one loaded with these people and another loaded with buffaloes — crossing each other. It is only later, in the climactic courtroom scene, that we realise the significance of this shot. In this age of outrage, people have also become a herd.