Naan Kadavul (2009 , Bala)

Bala is god.

He’s not a god -one of the thirty three crore in Hinduism, he’s not god part of a holy trinity. He’s God. This is why his films are irreligious and sociopath. God makes human beings. HE creates from chaos. He creates chaos. Nietzsche wansn’t even scratching the surface of the parts of the psyche bala explores with impunity The narrative art of storytelling his only aid. Bala goes where he pleases like an ashwamedha horse(the sacrificial horse of the old) and where he touches life is created.

Bala is god.

Naan Kadavul is a film where most of the actors are mangled…Physically mangled .dwarfed twisted broken arms from dickensian abuse teeth rotted from premature age. Their idiot smiles reflect their mental underdevelopment the hunched backs of the women hold up their animalistic breasts. Yet these are actors. They’re not subjects of an exploitation film that has beautiful people clawing their way out of this rejected morass of broken humanity. This film is about the rejected morass of broken humanity, smiling and not wasting the precious minds they are given. (A dwarfed hunchback says dismissively of  a peer “This ass thinks he’s Ambani” so someone asks “whose Ambani”  so of course the dwarf says “a phone salesman”. It’s like that.)


And the film is about god descending from the burning ghats of Banares – an Aghori who has been taught that he is god(aham brahmasmi) by an guru  (the Aghoris practice tantra , a sociopathic practice of hindu transcendence which includes cannibalism, necrophilia and consciousness enhancing drugs, and are worshipped as protecting gods in conventional hinduism ) to take up residence among the ruined temples of south India, among its refuse and crumbling civilization. A Shiva reminiscent of the hermit of kumari kandam, who lived in the jungles and presided over the fractious tamil chankam as a dancing hermit of destruction.

The epic narrative apart, this is an accessible movie full of relatable emotions from people you can laugh at and laugh with, people that are happy youre laughing at them if only because you often marginalize them out of your society and ignore them . you let them be preyed on by ruthless flesh traders who have no other means to do business  than trade broken bones and mangled flesh.


And all this is a metaphor. The handicapped beggars are dressed as gods. Not gods in a temple, actors in a street play(the therukkuthu) .The Aghori that descends from Kashi rejects his family ties (is he a hermit?) and the armless living god talks to no one but him. The two languages the Aghori speaks are Sanskrit and violence. There are people from out of town (kerala) who buy and sell the handicapped beggars. The judge speaks Brahmin tamil, The policeman speaks the “OBC” tamil. Bala is discussing caste politics with a protagonist that has transcended caste and family. I see that Tamil Nadu is listening. More power to him.

The film is not just an intellectual exploration of religion and caste in society. It is a conventional hero – heroine villain film. Illayaraja’s musical score in it is awesome and supportive. Many sequences grip you for as long as bala wants to keep your attention.


(Ilayaraja with the handicapped actors in the film)

Yet it s not a conventional tamil filmYou sometimes catch yourself wondering if you’d sit and wisecrack with this bunch of misfit dwarves. If films are in the business of creating false memories, this set of false memories makes you a better person. The heroine is just not a masturbatory fantasy. Her deliverance is not marriage and a saree. It is death and consumption in a cleansing fire.  The ultimate climax of a true melodrama. Epic death.  (like robert bresson’s mochette’s). Bala , with distain , leaves out the best Song (the sruthi bedam song)  from the movie. He has no need for it.

He’s god.

Post scriptum: There was once an artist, who in the quest of a statue said “if creative types want to  to show the real India, they should make their own film.” The artist just got his wish.

Netthi adi


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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25 Responses to Naan Kadavul (2009 , Bala)

  1. GoJoe says:

    Psyched to see this. Even more psyched now.

  2. Qalandar says:

    Brilliant piece, one to be savored and re-read. Unfortunately, I will have to wait a few months (for the release of the subtitled DVD), but I always await Bala’s films with baited breath. He is psychotic (that’s a compliment).

  3. Satyam says:

    A very fine piece here even if I’m still a little sore that Vikram wasn’t able to do this one!

  4. rameshram says:

    vikram would have made a good aghori, but I fear if bala had cast vikram again, he would have been called a one trick pony . (Sethu, Pitamaghan AND Naan Kadavul? too similar…)

  5. whoa… I have to try to find this movie. I REALLY need to sign up for Netflex asap!!!!

  6. rameshram says:

    idaint on netflix yet.

    As soon as I can find a subtitled source I’ll ping you.

  7. Pingback: Thought-provoking Piece on Naan Kadavul « SATYAMSHOT

  8. Qalandar says:

    Rameshram: better to repeat Vikram than try something “new” with a wannabe Vikram!*

    *[That’s based on my one experience with Arya: PATTIYAL. Perhaps I am being unfair to him; but I certainly wasn’t impressed by him there.]

  9. rameshram says:

    Bala’s casting of arya is perfect in Naan kadavul. vikram may have been equally well suited but i cant see how he could have been any better.

    there is a criticism(rangan et al) that Arya has been underused, but I beg to differ. this is the exact right use of arya’s screen time.

  10. rameshram says:

    plus, qualander,

    my personal theory is that vikram being a christian (john kennedy) and “power of” arya’s name played an important part in the decision to make him the aghori.

    wasnt the earlier choice ajit(and not vikram)?

  11. Avocado Iyengar says:

    Arya is actually a Muslim. His real name is Jamshed.

  12. rameshram says:

    i didn’t know this! thanks for that bit of info..


    there goes my personal theory!

  13. raj says:

    rameshram, first up, great review man.
    When you wrote that sh*t on Baradwaj, I admit I was incensed and did make some derogatory remarks. With this, you have your redemption :-). Just kidding, I shouldnt have judged you on that one post.
    What caste politics is Bala addressing here with the ****** judge and the *** policeman? Cant understand, care to explain?

  14. rameshram says:


    first off please don’t even mention my name in the same breath as such common daks like rangan.. naan engay those onnuntheriatha common fellws engai….

    haha kidding…

    second thamks for the kind words. I appreciate it.

    the brahmin judge and the obc inspector thing was pretty obvious to me. it should be to most people. bala was telling tamil upper castes that if they wanted their world to improve, they should let the ‘aghoris’ do their ‘thing’ .

    btw I didn’t write shit on rangans site. heck I didn’t write ANY shit!


  15. raj says:

    rameshram, I am somewhat uncomfortable with that interpretation(Bala telling upper castes…). His earlier movies show a completely different opinion on Brahmins – why suddenly this karisanam? Or is that Jeyamohan speaking from the background?
    About the shit on Rangan, yes, despite my conversion now, I will call your opinion piece on Baradwaj as that WONLY 🙂
    As you can see, that is merely my opinion and I am not prejudiced since you can see that when I liked your writing, I didnt hold that previous incident against you.

  16. rameshram says:


    that was precisely my point. it was RAMESHS review of criticism. it cannot be used as an objective yardstick for other people unless they see things from my POV.

    re bala and brahmins I do not think of bala as anti brahmin. but this is just like I don’t think kalaingar karunanidhi is now anti brahmn even though he might have been at one point.

    I think his view is that caste is not going away from tn politics soon, so might as well live with it and try to do good to society, even if doesn’t believe in it personally.

    I don’t think b’a is so strongly anti any caste.

  17. raj says:

    You are onto something there – in general, I think anti Brahminism peaked in the 60’s and 70’s in TN and is not the same animal since. Even MK has mellowed and keeps going with token anti-Hinduism statements just for the sake of it .

    Clearly, oppression has been taken over by others – how long can you flog a dead horse? In that sense, Bala certainly seems unique. He doesnt bring any political baggage a la Seeman or Thangar Bachan, self-proclaimed ‘upohlders’ of tamilness in Tamil cinema. Perhaps Bala is a lesson for them in how objectivity makes your art more precious.

  18. rameshram says:

    anti brahminism like every anti ism has /had specific causes and consequences. it does nt make sense to me to blame individual artists for societal ills.

  19. rameshram says:

    i, fo instance am very anti brahmin …im also, in a very different sense very pro brahmin….

  20. raj says:

    rameshram, oh I understand the causes of anti-brahminism. I am not blaming individual artists – just saying. I am not anti- or pro-anything in particular.

  21. raj says:

    Well ,except IR’s music, ofcourse. That is pro-pro-pro for me. Except that I dont feel strongly about any other thing in life 🙂

  22. narmatha says:

    Beautiful piece, I loved it.

  23. pulikesi says:

    Well Written piece on NK. The film is Bala’s satirical best. There was a small of glimpse of his satire in Pithamagan but this film takes a quantum leap in making a complete mockery of the society, politics, religion, rituals, caste…The film is like a Wild river flowing with such a force that it uproots and dislodges everything on its way to settle into a calm river later.
    I wrote a small piece on the movie within 3 days of its release in my blog. I’ve watched the movie multiple times later and am not able to get over it. The movie opens up various avenues to go through everytime we watch. Truly an artistic masterpiece and a well deserved review by you.

    Dig: Iam looking your avatar has ‘Quick Gun Murugan’ in it. The movie was being produced by phatfish productions and was supposed have music by ‘Raaja’! any idea on the status of the film?

  24. rameshram says:


    sorry for the delayed reply, was on a holiday.

    the qgm folks were trying to get their film marketed at cannes last year, dont know where that went.

    I myself was unimpressed with the trailer. much more could be done with the character. they seem to be bereft of ideas. The original channel v blurb was a classic.

    Re bala’s film, I thought it was well conceptualized and had a paosolini freshness in all the dwarf charecter sequences. while there have been dwarves in earlier films, they have usually look like circus dwarves and professionals. this set of actors have an amateur everyperson feel to them.

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