‘Kalvan’ movie review: A brilliant Bharathiraja cannot save this lacklustre drama that only wastes your time

GV Prakash Kumar, Dheena, and Bharathiraja in a scene from ‘Kalvan’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The disappointingly lackluster first quarter has continued for the Tamil film industry with the release of ‘Kalvan,’ headlined by GV Prakash, which rather than offering a respite, continues the trend of wearisome cinema. A film that hints at engaging plot points but fails to follow through is even more dispiriting than a straightforward misfire.

‘Kalvan’ doesn’t break new ground with its character arcs or backdrops; it pieces together the tale of two petty thieves, Kemban (GV Prakash) and Soori (Dheena), who on a whim decide to “adopt” a poverty-stricken elder (Bharathiraja) from an old age home in Sathyamangalam, forming a mock “family” with ulterior motives. As the story unfolds, the aged man’s hidden history comes to light.

We’re introduced to the Mayana Kollai festival, which ends up being nothing more than a pretext for a formulaic lead female character introduction. We hear about a rogue elephant causing chaos in the village, only to be chased away with fireworks. One would hope these narrative threads would weave together to form an engaging film… yet they fall short of doing so. The first half is bogged down with trite cliches and the main plot remains elusive until the film’s midpoint. The contrived scenes offer little salvation, such as when Balamani (Ivana), wearing a facial mask at night, terrifies Kemban and Soori as they secretly enter her house. The stereotypes are tiresome and predictable.

Kalvan (Tamil)

Director: PV Shankar

Cast: Bharathiraja, GV Prakash Kumar, Ivana, Dheena

Runtime: 142 minutes

Storyline: Two men take in an elderly gentleman under the guise of altruism, only to reveal hidden agendas

Even amidst a sea of cliches, it’s disappointing when a film can’t nail the fundamentals. From classics like ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ and ‘Pithamagan’ to even the sub-plots in ‘Raman Thediya Seethai’ (2008), we’ve seen scenarios where love blooms despite illogical beginnings. But ‘Kalvan’ doesn’t manage to inspire the same suspension of disbelief; Balamani detests Kemban in the first act, only to unconvincingly fall for him in the second act under the weight of guilt-tripping. If only that elephant would return…

GV Prakash Kumar and Ivana in a scene from ‘Kalvan’

GV Prakash Kumar and Ivana in a scene from ‘Kalvan’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

In the midst of subpar performances, a disjointed narrative style, forgettable jokes, and unremarkable musical numbers, the saving graces are Bharathiraja’s flawless acting and PV Shankar’s captivating cinematography. While Shankar may falter in his directorial debut, he excels as an established cinematographer. Meanwhile, Bharathiraja is solidifying his status as a commendable actor. Regrettably, his character’s intriguing backstory is reduced to a monologue accompanied by colorful sketches. We’re even subjected to poorly executed CGI work, which turns what could have been a compelling scene into an unintended comedy.

‘Kalvan’ was marketed as an elephant-centric film, with all promotions hinting at the majestic animal’s role, yet the actual onscreen elephant presence is minimal, rendering the lead character’s elephant-related scheme highly improbable. To call ‘Kalvan’ an “elephant movie” is like calling ‘Titanic’ a film about icebergs or ‘Padayappa’ a film about rocky landscapes. A potential tale of human interaction set against the backdrop of human-wildlife conflict ends up feeling like a fruitless endeavor—an unproductive white elephant.

‘Kalvan’ is now showing in theaters.

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