Spoilers ahead.

First of all, one question each to the makers of Kaashmora and Kodi.

Why was that self-proclaimed comparison with Baahubali made?’

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Kaashmora, which might’ve been a spellbounding experience, meanders at the end as another ambitious effort and remains happy with its ambition.

Why was Trisha cast in such an effective, cunning role , which was influential of the movie’s larger outcome in all possible ways?’

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Kodi has surprisingly turned out into an effective drama, which makes way for solid entertainment, with Dhanush at the helm of things.

Other than having the same release date and Santhosh Narayanan as the composer, Kaashmora and Kodi are poles apart, in every other way. While one starts well and meanders into the wretched territory as it runs along, the other starts slowly and leads us to captivating highs and self-deplorable lows (which was mainly because of one casting misfire.) The trailers of both the movies very well acted as a subterfuge for their respective larger picture, which were completely masquerading from what we might’ve thought about them. While one has one of the highly celebrated actresses in Nayanthara (a short, yet a major, powerful role as Ratnamahadevi) , the other has Trisha by its side (terribly miscast, though.) The drama and the grip we expected from Kaashmora and Gokul’s writing are surprisingly seen in Kodi, in a very effective way. Another way to look at these movies is from the amount of expectations they triggered on the minds of the audience. This factor will always play an invigorating role with a normal moviegoer, no matter how he/she tries to lower the excitement levels. The aforementioned factor has affected Kaashmora and Kodi at different extremes.

If the makers know that they won’t be able to match the immensely intense hype they generate pre-release, they must adhere to the levels that their movie can realistically achieve. Had Raj Nayak’s character not been revealed much before the movie, it would’ve been awe-inspiring to see that on-screen, at least to some level. Yes, it’s already been told that the character is ancillary, but will the normal audience be able to accept the reality very soon as they think? No is the answer, and we are witnessing it through the mixed reactions (slightly inclined towards the negative side) that are pouring in for Kaashmora and the predominantly positive response that’s been received by Kodi. So, what are these movies actually up to? Both are made with the intent of making a commercial movie with all the crucial factors that will bring up entertainment. But, intent alone doesn’t always help a movie develop into a full-fledged, proper end product.

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Kaashmora devotes its entire first half to a fake godman a.k.a an exorcist named (well.. You know it already..) Kaashmora. There are a few scattered laughs, and there are some big ones at times, but it never asks us to take itself seriously, and that’s where the major problem of the movie lies. Yes, there’s been some research that’s gone into the script, but there is laziness elsewhere. That consistent comparison with Baahubali did no help either. ‘Baahubali’ was a genuine, solid epic, whereas Kaashmora can’t even come close to being one (The only epic thing being the running time of 164 minutes.)  While Baahubali had a proper vision and possessed the conviction that was required to sell a stereotypical story, Kaashmora offers nothing close to those traits. Sridivya, who is shown as some student, says she’s doing a thesis on occult practices, but what she ends up doing is really investigative journalism. Maybe they thought an audience whose brains are regularly ground into mush wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. She’s there only because a film where the hero (read Star) plays two roles is mandated, by law, to have two heroines. Had the makers chopped the Sridivya role along with that of Sharat Lohitsawa’s, the film may have remained the same. It is shocking to imagine that this was the same Gokul who wrote and directed Rowthiram and Idharkuthane… , which had some proper character arcs with solid writing (though the former was set in a violent milieu.) Kaashmora relies heavily on comedy and some slapstick humour from Vivekh, who somewhat saves the film along with Karthi, providing some comical relief at times. All this criticism apart, there are some flashes of Gokul’s comical niche in his writing. Some scenes stand out and make us laugh, there are an equal number of stupid, bloated scenes which exist just for the sake of hanging in there.

Things seem to get better in the second half, when we are introduced to Raj Nayak, where Karthi shaves his head, sports a beard, and rolls his eyes as though mimicking the audience. The best portions of the movie sprout when we go into the flashback, where this villain – a medieval warlord (Raj Nayak) – tries to get his hands on princess Rathnamahadevi. For the first time in the film, we see some proper ambition, some staging, some kind of conclusive proof that a cinematographer was present on the sets. Dozens of beauties fall on Raj Nayak as the camera hovers over a bed. Raj Nayak stands on a mound of slain soldiers. But the illusion that ‘the movie is pushing itself up to the anticipated levels’ is shattered to pieces in a moment’s flash. The flashback seems hurried and haphazardly put together in the movie, which hurls its momentum completely and makes the climax completely uninspiring, though Karthi tries to entertain us with a terrific moment of surprise. If there was more conviction shown without being self-indulgent in showing off (which has to come naturally, something which was carried with panache in Baahubali) , Kaashmora might’ve been one hell of a movie. And, this made me keep thinking of Aayirathil Oruvan, which was another Karthi starrer with fantasy elements. It wasn’t perfect, but there were glimpses of greatness (Well.. That was Selvaraghavan…) And it was one of a kind. But Kaashmora, which starts well, meanders along as yet another Harry Potter like fantasy wannabe in Tamil, which has made me angry as it had the potential to become a rip-roaring entertainer.

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Now, let me shift my focus to Kodi. After screwing up big time with Thodari, I went with a preconceived notion to Kodi that it will be yet another average fare from Dhanush (The trailer helped the cause, too.) But, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar, this is the kind of ‘Commercial’ movie our makers have to start dishing out regularly. If we look at the plot at a rudimentary level, it will just seem like a regular Tamil masala movie. But, Kodi has a lot of layers to it. The writing is solid, mature, layered and textured. The plot, from an explicit level, suggests business as usual: the leading man in a double role. A party worker (Karunas) and his wife (Saranya) have twins. The party chief (SA Chandrasekhar) declares: “Oruthan veettukku, oruthan naattukku.”  Anbu grows up and becomes a professor, delivering lectures about mesh and loop analysis. But, expectedly, the twin who couldn’t be bothered with studies is the one who is valorised. This Dhanush is named Kodi – professedly in keeping with the film’s political backdrop per se. But, Kodi means business. He wears dark glasses; his thick beard is darker. We get our hero introduction scene right out of the template, and the customary fight accompanied by the opening song ritual. We sit back, awaiting a story that will keep prostrating at Kodi’s feet, turning to Anbu only when it’s time for romance. Or comedy, perhaps with some stereotypical situations playing out, showing how diverse the two characters are.

But, these are the places where Kodi keeps throwing surprises at us. Kodi features a “mass” character, who’s unusually (and unabashedly) focused on his work. We see Kodi in party meetings, slowly progressing from the head of the youth wing to an MLA candidate. Politics, in other words, is more than just a new or rather a fresh backdrop – it informs everything he does, and everything that he is. The reason his mother won’t speak to him – that’s got to do with politics. Even his girlfriend Rudra is in politics. This is an extremely rare instance, that, in a Dhanush film, the heroine doesn’t just have a job, she has the hero’s job. The film keeps circumventing clichés. We know the party chief (played to the gallery by a dependent SA Chandrasekhar) isn’t a good man in entirety, but we don’t get into a particular zone where we are made to think that he is entirely evil, too. He’s just doing what he needs to do in order to win the elections for his party. Similarly, Kodi isn’t a wide-eyed worshipper either. He’s wary of what’s brewing and how to handle the dire situations around him with Elan. He has a file the party chief (his mentor, the man who named him Kodi) wants, and yet, he isn’t naïve enough to hand it over. Loyalty is one thing. But, Kodi insists that survival is another.

Kodi is a kind of hero-centric movie one rarely gets to see. Here, apart from our hero, the arcs of the characters that traverse the hero are also well etched out. The two important ones are Kodi’s mother and his friend (Saranya and Kaali Venkat, respectively.) They have some solid reasons for their existence in the movie,  like Kodi’s mother, who experiences a loss- not once, but twice. It’s only right that she’s the one who stays the hero’s hand when, at the end, it looks like she might lose him too.Similarly, for Bhagat Singh (Kaali Venkat), it isn’t just about his relationship with Kodi. It’s about his relationship with Rudra too. Even Anbu’s students end up more than just bodies warming up benches. To see a film like Kodi is to realise that it’s not impossible to make a commercial movie that isn’t just a whistle-dispensing machine (a star-dispensing machine in other words) for fans. Which is not to say the film is completely above all the mass-hero moments. There’s a fantastic one involving Anbu towards the latter quarter of the movie. But the whistles come from the writing, not just from the posturing. The issue of contention is mercury contamination by a factory. This isn’t explored in much detail, as the script delves more into the aftermath of this incident in the heroes’ lives. But it’s handled with dignity, which is more than what we can say about other “mass” films that ripped headlines off the newspapers, like ‘Kaththi’ (which became operatic with the ground-water depletion by a Coca Cola-like MNC) and ‘Kakki Sattai’ (the illegal organ trade). The issue that’s been taken up isn’t just a vehicle for cheap, empty rhetoric that can be a cheap trick to being emotionally manipulative – it’s the mercury that contaminates the film, the characters.

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If it looks that I am heavily overselling the film, it’s because of the fact that even the heroines are meshed or looped into the narrative. The more dispensable one is Malathi/Muttai Malathy (Anupama Parameswaran). At first, she looks like she’s just there to play Anbu’s love interest. But she’s the one who slowly leads the film back to the mercury-contamination plot. Had she been a generic heroine, the only way to quench us from forgetting her would be through a few generic duets and romantic scenes – but she’s invested in the cause, and she joins the hero’s crusade. Though it isn’t anywhere near elegant, the writing seems refreshing and original. But Rudra is a magnificent creation, right out of Shakespeare novels, who is a good woman slowly corroded by the vision of power and appellation. When we see her, a question springs up in our mind- When was the last time we saw a commercial, mass masala movie heroine with ambition? When was the last time we saw a heroine who’s the hero’s rival, who in turn becomes his number one animosity? (They belong to different parties.) When was the last time when we saw the hero so understanding about the heroine’s career, with a tossed-off line like “politics vera, personal vera”? (Though there was a tinge of misogyny with the lines Kodi mutter to Rudra, during their first conversation shown in the movie.) Such a woman is usually never the heroine. She’s the vampire. She was one that we all witnessed in Padayappa. The hero in Padayappa put her in her rightful place, under his feet. Here, Kodi doesn’t seem to care an iota that she may rise to a position higher than his. Kodi is Padayappa minus the misogynistic elements. Unlike Ramya Krishnan’s Neelambari in that film, Rudra doesn’t become who she is simply because she was rejected by a man. The reasons are so complex, so clouded that Rudra is as surprised as we are when she turns into a Neelambari.

This character needed a better artist to pull it off. This fascinating character, which has a myriad of emotions running through with a lot of undercurrents wanted someone who can emote, act and look cunning at the same time. Trisha did not have that kind of aura that is required for this role (She’s more suited to a role like the one she played in Yennai Arindhaal, where she brimmed with elegance.) What we wanted was a fiery orator, a Machiavellian manipulator and an opportunistic politician, but we get the cardboard cut-out of Rudra outside Sathyam theatre. The actress couldn’t be stiffer if she tried. But Dhanush compensates big time, despite a pseudo-scientific twist being disappointingly under-written (which makes itself up by being whistle-inducing.) There’s no other star who’s so in tune with his inner actor, and no other actor so capable of doing the things that make a star a star. Santhosh Narayanan’s background score adds fuel to the already burning fire. This man’s come a long way, and Kodi is yet another valuable addition to his stock. Even in Kaashmora, his songs and score were of a healthy aid to push the movie up.

For a solidly written drama like Kodi, how can they cast someone like Trisha, who has huge limitations as an actress? When the face of the hero and the crowd is shown in long stretches, when you are hearing a fiery oration from the heroine. Thus, with their fair share of problems, both the movies misfired at some point or the other due to some bad choices. From the two movies which seem a million miles apart, it is clear that Kodi fares a bit better than Kaashmora, and has all the potential to likely emerge as this Deepavali’s winner!

Kaashmora and Kodi- Genres apart, where Kodi fares better than Kaashmora, when we weigh the overall products…

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