Had I not already submitted my top ten for the year, I would have no hesitation in including this unforgettable Indian movie among the best of 2015’s releases. It is a peculiar phenomenon but true – it’s easier to say why you disliked a movie than it is to say why you loved it. The reason, I am convinced, is that the ‘good’ movie’s qualities are not noticed while being watched because you are so emotionally, so personally involved in what is happening. Critical evaluation comes with hindsight, and how hard is it to grasp a sunbeam?
Chinna and Periya are little brothers growing up in the wretched slums of Chennai. Free-range, bare-footed kids, unlike ours in Oz, they can cross a busy street on their own. Dad’s in jail and an ailing Granny shares the floor of their ten square feet of existence with an over-worked Mum and uncomplaining pup. The grungy realism is staggering – so why are the boys so upbeat, so keen for every day? And before you start, this is not a whitewashing of the awfulness of extreme poverty and the inequality of wealth distribution. A hip entrepreneur opens a pizza joint on the lot where the kids played cricket and Chinna and Periya, because it’s beyond their wildest dreams, want to taste one of those pizzas – the exotic food is so modern, so emblematic of the ‘new India’ from which they are excluded. The boys, resourceful and determined, try everything and anything to raise the rupees to buy that pizza, creating a maelstrom around them of self-interested capitalists, smarmy local politicians and hand-to-mouth spivs. None of which can explain the depth of M Manikandan’s fantastic film – he wrote, directed and even did the cinematography.
I couldn’t bring myself to be consumed by the Star Wars vortex (I don’t get it – is nobody else sick of wars?) but I’ll take this any day of the week. I laughed, I cried, I was reacquainted with life’s more important verities.