KS Ravikumar in ‘Koogle Kuttappa’
In one of the episodes of Rod Serling’s pioneering sci-fi series, The Twilight Zone, a murder convict named Corry is sentenced 50 years of solitary confinement on a distant asteroid. He is given all basic amenities needed for survival. But apart from the days when officers from Earth bring him supplies, he has no company. It’s just him in a vast asteroid.
Corry is imprisoned by loneliness.
Then, one of the visiting officers who sympathises with him, gets him a robot named Alicia that looks and behaves like a woman. Corry first hates it. He is sceptical if the machine can actually replicate a human companion. But when it starts alleviating his desolation, he gradually develops feelings for it – for her. The extraterrestrial prison now starts to feel like a paradise. Just him and her in their own world. He gets so attached to Alicia that even when he is pardoned of his sentence, he refuses to return to Earth without the robot.
The very thing he thought was soulless had become his soulmate.
This is the same premise behind Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s bittersweet Malayalam film, Android Kunjappan Version 5.25, which has now been remade in Tamil as Koogle Kuttappa. It is about an elderly luddite developing an emotional bond with a robot that his son gets to look after him.
The Malayalam version of the film was released just three years ago and is streaming on Amazon Prime Video with subtitles. What is the need for a remake then, one might wonder. But this film perhaps warrants one because of the protagonist’s age.
How many Tamil films in recent years have explored the lives of people in that age group? Dhanush’s Pa Paandi comes to mind. But, overall, it’s just a handful. So, a lot of the older audience in Tamil Nadu, who don’t understand Malayalam, can relate to this story – a science fiction at that – especially when it is rooted in their culture.
Koogle Kuttappa is set in a small town near Coimbatore. An ageing Subramani (KS Ravikumar), who has lost his wife, wants his son, Adithya (Tharshan), to live with him while the latter, a robotics engineering graduate wants to work abroad. When he finds himself a job in Germany, he leaves after getting a reluctant assent from father. Meanwhile, Subramani suffers a heart attack. Worried about his father’s health, Adithya brings home a robot his company makes to look after him. Subramani, though, is averse to technology. Forget smartphones, he does not even use a mixer to grind his food.
How can a man who distrusts even a mixie get used to a robot?
Well, he does (and so do the entire townsfolk). Because, like Alicia in The Twilight Zone episode, here, too, the robot, named Kuttappan, fulfils a strong craving for companionship. If Corrie is a prisoner in a faraway asteroid, Subramani is an emotionally awkward, slightly grumpy old man, who does not get along very well with fellow humans. So, when the hip-high, affable robot fills a void in his life, Subramani starts treating him like his little son – quite literally. He gets him new clothes, wipes his head when he gets wet in the rain, does a special pooja in a temple… and so on.
For us to get sucked into the blossoming of this man-machine bond, we need a solid performance. And, Suraj Venjaramoodu, as the old father, was superb in the Malayalam version. His acting made us overlook some of the logical loopholes in the writing. KS Ravikumar, similarly, carries the film in the Tamil version. This is probably his best-ever work as an actor.
First-time directors Sabari and Saravanan have largely stuck to the original screenplay. They are ably aided by Ghibran’s music and Arvi’s camerawork. But the best thing about the film is Ravikumar. He emotes so well. His limp, his Coimbatore Tamil, and his subtle little tics are so natural. His banter with Yogi Babu was among the most enjoyable portions in the film.
The same, however, cannot be said of his portions with Tharshan. It pales in comparison with the chemistry Suraj and Soubin Shahir (who plays the son) shared in the Malayalam version. The romance between Tharshan and Losliya, who plays a Germany-settled Sri Lankan Tamil, was bland as well.
But for a film that deals with topics that can give us existential worry – old age, loneliness, and AI – it serves up quite a few delightful moments (though it ends on a wistful note).
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Printable version | May 7, 2022 1:13:24 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/koogle-kuttappa-review-ks-ravikumar-yogi-babu/article65389017.ece
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KS Ravikumar in ‘Koogle Kuttappa’