I keep in mind watching Kuruthipunal (′River of Blood’; 1995) once I was nonetheless in school and staggering out of the theatre in shock. That feeling stayed with me the complete week and I went again thrice.
With every extra viewing, because the emotional influence dulled, I might recognize the police motion thriller an increasing number of for its impeccable performances and highly effective screenplay, all contained inside a bare-bones construction that eschewed the same old song-and-dance routines of Tamil cinema. Even the violence appeared crucial quite than gratuitous.
One other massive departure from the norm was that on this motion flick, the reel cops — Kamal Haasan as Adhi and Arjun as Abbas — behaved like actual ones who displayed intelligence and technique in opposition to their ruthless Naxal adversary Badri (performed by Nassar). On this film, killing the baddies was not as essential as capturing and questioning them. For some time, Kuruthipunal grew to become the gold commonplace to which I held all Tamil films, and most predictably failed.
Kuruthipunal was launched on 23 October, 1995, and 2020 marks the 25 12 months because it first hit theatres. Now is an efficient time as any to look again on the movie’s influence. Has it aged effectively? How effectively will it sit with an viewers immediately? How do its technical features measure as much as immediately’s requirements?
Proper film, unsuitable time?
Kuruthipunal is extensively seen as a traditional now, however it was maybe just a little too forward of its time when it was launched. It grew to become India’s submission to the 68 Academy Awards (though it was not nominated), however it confounded Tamil audiences again then and didn’t do almost as effectively on the field workplace as famous person Rajinikanth’s Muthu, which was launched on the identical date. The films couldn’t have been extra dissimilar. Muthu was a quite regressive story of romantic cross-connections set in a land of semi-fantastical proportions. Kuruthipunal was rooted in realism and so faraway from the cinematic conventions of the time that even Kamal’s fanatical followers didn’t give the movie the possibility it deserved.
The Nineteen Nineties have been a dismal decade for Tamil cinema, and the parallel motion that had shot off within the Nineteen Seventies had slowed to a crawl (the publish 2000 new wave was nonetheless a ways away). Presently, reigning stars Rajini and Kamal had each slowed their tempo significantly from the prolific 80s. Nonetheless, whereas Rajini continued to give attention to business blockbusters, Kamal (along with a clutch of comedies) started to more and more work on status initiatives reminiscent of Gunaa (1991), Thevar Magan (1992), Mahanadhi (1994), and Nammavar (1995). Kuruthipunal was a worthy addition to this canon. There have been no songs within the movie and little or no melodrama, which meant it went utterly in opposition to the grain. Unsurprisingly, Kamal Haasan ended up having to provide the movie since nobody else was keen to take the danger.
“’Kuruthipunal’ grew to become India’s submission to the 68th Academy Awards (though it was not nominated), however it confounded Tamil audiences again then.”
Most Tamil blockbusters then have been crassly business and performed to the entrance rows. On the other spectrum have been odd arthouse creations reminiscent of Mogamul and Kolangal — each made in 1995 — that have been elitist and picked up all of the awards.
Kuruthipunal, an adaptation of Govind Nihalani’s Drohkaal (‘Instances of Treason’; 1994), didn’t belong in both of those classes. Though it didn’t supply the same old populist method, it was a taut, accessible, and eminently watchable thriller that includes an all-star forged, which along with Kamal and Arjun included Nassar, Okay Viswanath, Gautami, and Geetha. Even the bit elements have been memorable, particularly John Edathattil because the Naxalite Narasimham, Subhalekha Sudhakar because the slimy terrorist Soori, and Ajay Rathnam (a long-time, precious collaborator of Kamal) as an RPG shooter.
The film was directed by ace cinematographer P C Sreeram, who was additionally behind the lens. Nonetheless, Kamal’s screenplay was the glue that held the film collectively.
The movie was radical for its time, making a deep, disturbing probe into what differentiates a cop and a terrorist. At its core was a query that is still related to today, throughout completely different contexts – is a cop merely a instrument within the palms of a wrathful state?
Kamal all the time will get his homework completed and that’s obvious in his screenplay. Although the elemental concept — two cops in a top-secret mission trying to infiltrate a Naxal group — got here from Nihalani, Kamal brilliantly tailored it for Tamil audiences.
The film begins and ends with a letter Adi writes to his superiors within the police division, drawing consideration to the rising terrorism within the nation. Within the subsequent few scenes, we’re instructed about ‘Operation Dhanush’, by which two cops infiltrate the camp of Naxal mastermind Badri. One in every of them takes his personal life as an alternative of permitting the Naxals to seize him.
Nonetheless, this can be a movie by which each the protagonists and antagonists are proven as standing to undergo crippling and humiliating losses, and the place the heroes even have shades of gray. Adi slowly will get to learn the way porous his division is and the way Badri has him in a nook. For a lot of elements of the movie, Badri holds the higher hand till Adi makes a decisive and disastrous (for himself) choice within the climax. The vulnerabilities of the cops are additionally allowed to glimmer by, reminiscent of throughout a scene by which Adi confesses to his spouse Sumitra (Gautami) that he’s scared and on the “shedding aspect”.
The ultimate moments are harrowing to look at, particularly given the bloody facial make-up, however it brings out one of the best in each Kamal and Arjun.
Apparently, Arjun’s character Abbas is a Muslim, a element that turns into related solely in a vital funeral sequence (I cannot say extra in order to keep away from spoilers).
There is no such thing as a doubt about it: Kuruthipunal is a superb motion film. From the harrowing opening schoolbus bombing sequence to the tense shootout at a prepare station by which Arjun kills Nizhalgal Ravi’s character, the movie is stuffed with elaborately staged motion. Stunt choreographer Vikram Dharma outdoes himself within the rocket launcher phase. PC’s digital camera work as he captures Kamal’s Adi Narayanan chasing Ajay Ratnam’s character by the forest is dazzling.
Notably, Kamal contributed to the much-admired (and gory) make-up design for the climatic sequence, a incontrovertible fact that not many knew when the film was launched.
The background rating by Mahesh is nuanced and restrained, sublimely accentuating the suspense. This, by the way, was the primary Indian movie to make use of the Dolby stereo encompass system, albeit at a time when not many theatres have been geared up to showcase the brand new expertise.
Editor N P Satish, who has notched up fairly a repute within the Malayalam movie business, and has collaborated with Kamal on Chachi 420 (1997) and Devar Magan (1992), edited this film in a crisp lean-and-mean trend that stands out even after 25 years.
An enduring influence
Kuruthipunal was an outlier in Tamil cinema when it was made and the muted response to it meant that different filmmakers on the time weren’t pushed to emulate its type. Thus, for a very long time, the same old over-the-top motion and song-and-dance extravaganzas prevailed. Even a lot of Kamal’s ‘classics’ from again then adopted these box-office-friendly components.
Nonetheless, later, critically acclaimed filmmakers reminiscent of Gautham Vasudev Menon and AR Murugadoss have talked about the film as an essential affect in their very own crime capers.
Tamil audiences have additionally matured through the years and Kuruthipunal has gained acceptance as a mainstream traditional. Even immediately, sure strains and catchphrases from the film have attained recognition, notably, “Thairiyamna enna theriyuma, payam illatha mathiri nadikkarathuthan (Are you aware what bravery is? It’s to behave as if you understand no concern)” and Adi’s exhortation to “delay, disable and disintegrate” the enemy.
Director P C Sreeram as soon as described the expertise of capturing Kuruthipunal as “most satisfying”. I’m satisfied that the majority audiences immediately would say the identical in regards to the viewing expertise as effectively.