Kaaka Muttai (The Crow’s Egg) – 2015, Tamil

-Manjula Jonnalagadda

“I can resist everything except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde

          Kaaka Muttai is a film written and directed by M. Manikandan. This film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It won the National Award for the Best Children’s Film and the Best Child Artists for Vignesh and Ramesh in 2015. It won several accolades and consistently ranked among the best Indian films of the decade.

  1. Manikandan started his career as a Cinematographer. His first short film was Wind, which was screened at several film festivals. Kaaka Muttai is his full-length directorial debut. He made four more films which were critically acclaimed.

          The film opens with Chinna Kaka Muttai wetting his bed. Chinna has a brother called Periya Kaka Muttai. (Periya means the elder, chinna means the younger). They are called Kaaka Muttai brothers because they steal eggs from a crow’s nest and eat them. These brothers are very poor. They live in a small tin-roofed house with their mother and grandmother. The mother works at a local factory. The children’s father is in jail waiting forthe bail. The children dropped out of school to help with the bail money for their father. They gather coal that falls from passing freight trains to sell it to a local store.

          The children have two friends, one is an adult called Pazhayarasam (Fruit Juice), the other a child called Lokesh who lives in a gated complex. One day the land that is used as a local playground with a big tree that is home to crows is sold and a pizza shop is built there. Super star Simbu comes to the formal inauguration of the pizza shop. The children are intrigued by the pizza, now they want to taste it. The cost is beyond their reach. Even if they end up saving enough money, will it work?

          What you see in this film is two different Indias. One India that has financial means to get what they want, the other poor that is surviving on their own terms. The pizza at the shop costs 300 rupees which is out of the reach for the children of the slum who barely make their ends meet. The shop is a temptation and also a source of contempt. As the mother of the children points out, how good is a pizza shop in a poor neighborhood that tempts children who cannot afford it.

          Another thing that the film shows is the survival spirit. The children want to buy the pizza. They figure out that they need work for a month to save the money. They devise several plans to make the money. They transport drunk sods from the liquor stores to home, distribute flyers, even try to sell their dog. 

          This film is not just for children. It is also a very fine social satire. The children’s father is in jail. We don’t know the crime he committed. Cases in India take a longtime, in many cases years. Lawyers milk their clients, but do not help deliver justice. The mother gets two television sets from a ration shop(the store that sells essential staples at a cheaper rate to the poor), but cannot get rice. 

          The children go to the pizza shop, but they are denied entry even though they wear new clothes. The manager slaps them, and that video goes viral. Ironically the new reporter shoos away the children who are the subject of that video. The film satires this as well.

          Performances of the film are fantastic, especially the children. The younger one played by Ramesh was really cute and adorable with innocence in his face. Aishwarya Rajesh as the mother is also very good, so is the rest of the cast!

The film is extremely well written with excellent characters and is full of heart.

Watch it for an experience that stays with you for a while!


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