Cast: Catherine Tresa, Arya, Aadukalam Murugadoss
Avatar meets Lagaan in the Ragava-directed Kadamban (Protector). From the former, we get the story of an indigenous people – tribals from the village of Kadambavanam, high in the hills – being preyed on by greedy corporate-capitalists. (The villain is in the cement business. There’s limestone in those hills he wants.)
And from Lagaan, we get the ragtag bunch of Davids standing up to Goliath. The result is long and a bit of a mishmash, but not entirely unwatchable.
It may help if you set your expectations low. I certainly did, given that the director’s last film was Manjapai, where a patriot turned red in the face upon seeing the American flag at the US embassy. It’s far easier to take the scenes here, such as the one where Rathi (Catherine Tresa) tells Kadamban (Arya) that she has a thing for him by pointing at two mating snakes. That’s probably Kadambavanam-ese for “I want to writhe and thrash around with you, baby!”
This romance is generic. As is the villain. As are the plot points. When an elephant is rescued in Scene 3, you know it will return in Scene 23. The writing is that obvious. It includes a mystifying stretch in the middle that resembles a documentary on tribal life. But there’s a sense of spectacle, especially in the climax (SR Sathish Kumar is the cinematographer ). And Aadukalam Murugadoss is kinda fun as a man who can’t stop wanting babies. I’ve seen movies with far less to recommend.
And Arya somehow brings it all together. The actor is no… well, actor. But the pure physicality this part needs, he pulls it off, sculpted body and all. It helps that he’s not required to emote much, and instead do scenes like the one where he plunges off a cliff in search of honey. Elsewhere, he delivers a masterclass on how to fight off snarling hyenas with your dhoti folded over your knees and yet keep the camera from catching your junk. This may be his finest hour.