Kuthiraivaal

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The Indian film Kuthiraivaal is about a man who spontaneously grows a horse tail. Whatever you think the movie will do with that premise, I promise you are wrong. Lots of potential rests in the idea. You could make a comedy out of it, or a horror movie, or even an existential drama. Instead, directors Manoj Leonel Jahson and Shyam Sunder, together with screenwriter G. Rajesh, have attempted to make a sci-fi mind-bender. Well, it bends your mind, all right, just not in any kind of way that's fun or entertaining.

The man in question is Saravanan (Kalaiyarasan), and the first scene finds him awakening from a dream to find a horse tail protruding from his pants. At first, he tries to hide it. After getting fired from his job, he sets out on a quest to determine what caused this unusual malady. Saravanan visits a number of people who might have clues to the mystery. One is an old woman who interprets dreams. Another is an expert mathematician. The character gathers information from these individuals; the audience sure doesn't. Instead, what they say simply generates more questions.

Most of what occurs is presented in a weird pseudo-comedic manner. The camera glides around as if hovering over the characters, and Kalaiyarasan constantly twitches in an effort to make it appear as though Saravanan is having equine traits. (That gets annoying to watch real fast.) Then, at about the 75-minute mark, Kuthiraivaal abruptly becomes a whole other movie, focusing on a young woman living in a small village. There's a bloody miscarriage scene and a mini-subplot about how the villagers react to the passing of Marduhur Gopalan Ramachandran, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who died in 1987. I get how the story is trying to use this section to suggest a deeper root cause for Saravanan's tail, but it's so tonally different from everything else that it loses any potential meaning.

Telling a mind-bending story is fine, provided you know exactly why you're including every single element. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a great example of how that's accomplished. The audience can follow each new development, despite the rapid pace at which they come. Kuthiraivaal moves much more slowly, yet the “revelations” are muddled and confusing. To a degree, that could be a cultural thing. Nevertheless, the lack of a solid, clearly-understood resolution hurts the picture overall.

To be fair, there is beautiful cinematography in the film, and a couple individual moments show creativity. Kuthiraivaal is too slowly-paced and repetitive, though. I found myself growing impatient with it. None of the compelling things that could be done with the idea of a horse-tailed human are explored, leaving the story to feel like one great big missed opportunity. What should have been fun and/or intriguing is instead ponderous.

Kuthiraivaal is streaming on Netflix in the United States.


out of four

Kuthiraivaal is unrated, but contains mild language and a bloody miscarriage scene. The running time is 2 hours and 2 minutes.