Kazhugu, the first film in what is now a franchise, made heads turn on its release in 2012. Translating to ‘Vulture’, that film directed by Sathyasiva and starring Krishna and Bindu Madhavi, followed the lives of a perennial drunkard Sera (Krishna) and his motley crew of friends who made a living out of stealing from corpses they retrieved from a ‘Suicide point’ in Kodaikanal.
The insensitive and boorish attitude of Sera and his friends hit a nerve very early on and ultimately set the tone for one of the most ambitious debut attempts from a filmmaker that year. I found that film to be an engrossing character study more than anything else. Could someone dare treat Death with so much disrespect and disdain? Well, Sera could! And would Death not try to teach him a lesson at some point? It certainly did, in what was a terrific climax sequence. Sera ultimately ends up losing all his loved ones and himself...to death!
The story also reminded me of a rather prodigious book I had read: The Book Thief authored by Markus Zusak. In that book, the story itself is narrated by Death and follows the lives of people it consumes during the World War in Germany (a highly recommended read)!
And seven years later in 2019, Sathyasiva has come out with a second film in this franchise: Kazhugu 2. Interestingly, this isn’t a sequel per se. Though he has retained most of the original cast and used Kodaikanal as the film’s backdrop, the story itself is entirely new.
Johnny (Krishna) and Kaali (Kaali Venkat), two small time thugs, are hilariously mistaken for huntsmen and recruited to protect workers clearing a forest area from wild dogs. The difference in the film’s tone is obvious from the word go and we are treated to lighter moments and serene visuals (Raja Bhattacharjee is the cinematographer). In between all this is a romantic track and to be honest, a few intrusive songs (albeit montages).
Initially, I was under the impression that this film would take us on a Man Vs Wild journey, with the face-off with wild dogs in the forest being the central theme. I was wrong however, and we are in fact made to wait till the Interval point for the real plot to kick in. And this is where the Kazhugu DNA starts making its felt presence too!
The plot revolves around an ancient burial practice (smell Death here?!), a hidden treasure in the forest and a corrupt, greedy politician. With some focus and Yuvan Shankar Raja’s riveting background score, the film finally takes off and gathers speed.
One scene that I found to be especially terrific in this sequence involved a pawn-broker and the lengths he goes to, to ensure the best deal for himself. The director even rounds it all off with an interesting twist in the climax that I didn’t quite see coming!
What strikes me about the whole Kazhugu franchise, is the unique DNA at its core. If you look closely, both films essentially revolve around the concept of ‘stealing from the dead’. And the makers have tried to put this concept in perspective and tried to carve out intelligent stories around it, without infusing unnecessary supernatural elements. This ambition itself is highly commendable in my opinion, in an industry that hasn’t really examined the subject of death in great detail (apart from the middling horror comedies that come and go)!
As a standalone film, Kazhugu 2 probably falls short of its predecessor and is more a ghost of the first film than a glorious re-incarnation. But I wouldn’t mind another film from this particular franchise at all, albeit with some better writing.
For those of you who are interested, the first Kazhugu film now has an ‘after-life’ on the streaming platform SunNxt! And Kazhugu 2 is currently running in theatres near you.
Shrikanth is a Chartered Accountant, who keenly follows and writes about cinema when he is not crunching numbers or balancing ledgers! You can find more of his work at Non Linear Plot