1 October, 2020

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Kaaka Muttai (The Crow’s Egg): The Poor Under Globalization & Neoliberalism?  

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Kaaka Muttai (The Crow’s Egg) is an excellent Tamil-language film recently shown on SBS TV (Australia), as part of World Movies, with English subtitles that depicts some of the predicaments of the poor, particularly the growing up children, under globalization and neoliberalism in a satirical manner. Written, directed and filmed by N. Manikanadan as a debut in Chennai in 2015 it has gained several international accolades for its story, message, sensitivity and artistic qualities. 

The story with the background of slum dwellings in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, revolves around two boys who become obsessed with tasting a piece pizza. Pizza here is the symbol of globalization. The two are brothers who live with their mother and grandmother, the father being in police custody for some unknown reason. They all love each other very much. 

It is praiseworthy that Manikanadan in fact has chosen two slum kids to act in his film, J. Vignesh and V. Ramesh, as the two brothers. The mother’s role is played by Aishwarya Rajesh, a well known actress. 

While the mother struggles to find money to get the father released on bail, the two kids get influenced by pizza advertisements in the area and on TV. Both are ingenious kids who behave reasonably well influenced by their mother’s ethical orientation. She has a principle not to hit her kids and humor is her disciplinary tactic. 

How did they get TVs, while being and living in a dirty slum? Undoubtedly, neoliberalism has a ‘trickledown’ effect! Or is it a lingering ‘welfare-measure’ coming from M. G. Ramachandran’s era? They in fact have two TVs! Not only the mother, but also the grandmother gets a free TV during the election time being ration-card holders. While watching TV commercials on pizza, the two kids salivate in the presence of the grandmother. 

Granny tries to appease the greed or the desire of the two kids by trying to imitate a pizza by using dosa as the batter-base, and topping it with tomato slices, capsicum and onions. She tries her very best, but the boys are obviously not satisfied. Only their pet dog eats it. The two kids cannot understand why their mother or grandmother cannot supply what they want, whether pizza, toys or eggs. This is the predicament of the poor kids all over the world. 

What are the names of the two kids? No one knows the real names, the elder being called ‘Periya Kaaka Muttai’ (Big Crow’s Egg) and the other, ‘Chinna Kaaka Muttai’ (Little Crow’s Egg). The names are given because they are well known for collecting crows’ eggs and drinking them for extra strength and vitality. They are school dropouts given their abject poverty. Otherwise it is said that Chennai schools supply eggs to poor school kids at lunch time. They are ingenious in collecting crows’ eggs from nests.  

 

Opening a Pizza Spot near their slums is a big event. Perhaps that was the only empty land available for the newly rising businessman (under neo-liberalism, I would say), to erect the new building for that purpose. This is what the kids mother later questions from the authorities, asking “Why did you allow opening a pizza spot near our slums, tormenting our children?” All the slum kids go to see the event, from a distance of course, inaugurated by a popular film star Simbhu. 

Two Eggs’ appetite increases. They get a leaflet and call 3888 3888 for pizza delivery, thinking it might be within their means. They do earn some money by collecting and selling dropped coals from goods-trains to a collection shop. (They live near a railway line). But the price is Rs. 300! The receptionist asks for their address! Do they have one? They are confused. They ask the granny and she is more confused. “We are near Mariamman Temple,” is her answer. They fear to ask the mother because then she knows the two are up to some mischief.   

Having sympathized with the boys’ predicament, their friend-mentor, a railway lineman, shows where the railway department keeps some coal in store. His name is ‘Fruit Juice.’ They take coal chunks little by little and ask their mentor: “Are we stealing?” “No, you are just taking,” is the answer. For that advice, their mentor-lineman loses his job. All these episodes are depicted in extremely humorous manner.  

After earning enough money, they go to the Pizza Spot. They are chased away by the security, staring at their clothes. They are now puzzled about their dress. For the second attempt, they find some good clothes, without stealing, but ‘doing business’ with two rich kids in Mylapore. This is part of the central city of Chennai. In contrast to pizza, the two rich kids were after pani puri, their father forbids for hygienic reasons. They exchange pani puri to new cloths. 

The ‘Two Eggs’  make a second attempt in good clothes to buy pizza. Alas! Having recognize them as slum kids, the Manager assaults the ‘Big Egg’ and he falls. This is videoed by some other kids for fun, but about to go viral under positive developments of globalization and technology transfer. The two poor kids have further disappointment by losing their grandmother when they come home. After the funeral, they runaway from home being scared of thugs that the businessman has sent. The pizza businessman makes all efforts to thwart the news and the video spreading, but several TV channels jump on the opportunity. ‘It is a human rights issue,’ his business advisor declares.   

The film reveals the despicable connections between the businessman/men, the local politicians, the area thugs and the police in uncertain terms. These are very common in many South Asian countries, similar to the film’s surroundings, characters and incidents. The poor are their virtual instruments of their games. 

Having failed to stop the news, and the video, the Businessman brings the two kids through the police to the Pizza Spot. This is peace-making and reconciliation. The arrangements are similar to the opening ceremony where the movie star Simbhu participated. The two kids, accompanied by the mother are extremely puzzled. A TV journalist asks the businessman “Is this a business gimmick?” The businessman says “No, I apologize for the incident. I don’t make a distinction between the rich and the poor.” These are typical of neoliberal pronouncements. The reality is the difference. 

The Businessman offers pizza to the two kids and in fact feeds them. Their appetite is really gone. Faces are woeful. Periya Muttai asks Chinna Muttai: “Do you like it?” Yuck is the answer. “Granny’s dosa-pizza was much better,” he adds. 

(One may compare ‘Kaaka Muttai’ with ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ However, the KM is more realistic and meaningful, than the SM in my opinion. It is down to earth to the South Asian conditions and contradictions of globalization.)  

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Latest comments

  • 10
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    Thanks for good analyses and exposure of the film to non Tamil readers. It is really a very good film, different from hundreads of masalas produced mostly by corrupt ‘businessmen” in Madras.

    • 1
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      Peacelover,
      I also want to thank Laksiri for the introduction. I will definitely see the movie soon. But, I have on question for Laksiri: What made you use the terms “liberal economics” & “trickle down” in your review which itself got “good reviews”. I ask this question b’cos the use of the term gives me the sense of derogation towards the introduction & spread of market economic system replacing feudal system which certainly has been the best example for a “trickle down” economic system both in theory & practice.

    • 1
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      Peacelover {“……..It is really a very good film, different from hundreads of masalas produced mostly by corrupt ‘businessmen” in Madras”}
      Businessmen the world over have to be corrupt to succeed.
      Chennai businessmen do it to make quick wealth. Politicians are after quick wealth. So are budding models, Godmen, religious clergy ……..just about everyone.
      PS: Where is Madras?

  • 5
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    Thanks for bringing to our notice a good film.

    Doesn’t globalization and neo- liberalism bring the contradiction between the rich and the poor to the front-line?

  • 4
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    Dear Dr LF thank you for the analysis and most appreciated.

    This is what we are living today is the message to all our country men to get their head together and Nation Build with respect to each other…………..this mets the need of our Nation at all levels with regard to educating our public….why we lost our children and our future……….how we all exploited each other for our means and ends too.

    I am personally glad to see a Bollywood film has embarked on an educational program to follow up Gandhis work.

    Thank you

    • 1
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      I am glad to see a Bollywood film has embarked on an educational program

      Jove sir, If have no idea of what are you writing about, please have it checked with somebody, before post it. Further read the article second time. Though elite class like you needs to learn a lot from the Tamil Movie Kaaka Muttai, it was not intended to display purely the contrasts of the class differences.
      Sir it is a Tamil Movie;
      Can you spell Tamil? Tamil Movie………. not Bollywood movie!

      Yes, it has something to do with, globalization, Neo liberal.. all those junks. But it is about two young boys’ fantasy of rich life, but it is not really rich. DMK parties have been giving free TV. But let them to earn money for life. The boys did not dream to eat Rs1 idly at Amma’s food centers. But dreamed to eat Pizza at a private shop. It is mainly about fantasy, not poverty.

      Before Velai Kari, the Movies were mainly descended from religious stories. Their aim was to narrate a religious idea. C.N. Annadurai’s Velai Kari was the first well known social education movie. Kaaka Muttai is not the “Finally”. If your Wapa didn’t teach you Tamil, is it Tamil Cinema movie makers’ mistake?
      I am not in full agreement with DMK styles as some of their movies are anti-Brahmin dyed. I am not a supporter of anything anti-, not even anti-Tamil like you
      But, DMK came to street by making these types of movies. Karunanidhi’s Parasakthi also somewhat that type. Kannadasan’s many songs are this type. (If you know Tamil), you may remember hearing “Annanthu Parkkinra Maalikkai Kaddi Athan Arukinile Siru Kudisai kaddi Ponna Ulakenru Peyaarum Vaithtaal”,” Padiyarici poodukira kalaththile naankal padi yeri pitchai kedaka Poka maadom.”, “Aandan adimai Meendoruputhumai kaalamum vaarathoo”………..

    • 1
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      The Majestic song writer Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram is a hardcore communist. Basically all his cinema songs are about his socialist thinking. Still many don’t accept that Kannadasan can write songs like Pattukottai. But like as always Tamils’ luck, unfortunately Pattukottai died at very young age.

      There is whole series of MGR’s movies, based on his half socialism idea. They all stress the damage in societies by the differences existing among the classes. That is the reason all poor people voted to MGR and made him CM.

      Pizza is representation of modern life. Not rich life. All fast food chains are condemned by social, medical, nutritional professionals. They are low hygiene, poor nutritional, busy workers eateries. One slice pizza in many down shops (NYC) is $1. But if you get into any restaurant you would spend $15-$25 for lunch. At Starbuck a coffee is $5. (It is another Chain). Grandma’s Dosa is not fast food. It is handmade. Grandma’s Dosa is made with Uddad and gingelly Oil mix; very high nutritional. This is the rich prescription food for attained girls and delivered mothers to restore their tissues & energy. In West, these days, home food is full, complete home life, which many western workers cannot afford. Further, one of the reasons why many don’t marry is the home life not worth for the money to earn for.
      You and your professor need to have capacity to watch and understand movies.
      The movie was comedy genre, not an educative.

  • 4
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    the 02 KIDS WON AWARDS FROM PRESIDENT OF INDIA ..

  • 5
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    Absolutely brilliant movie. It will definitely change the outlook of a lot of people on life in general. The acting of the two kids and the supporting cast was superb. Could watch it over and over again. This is a must watch movie for the whole family.

  • 0
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    Jove Sir ??????????? CT publish this thuggary as a right of a fellow human who is allowed to cohabit and express whatever????wow

    Anyway they say we all have to identify ourselves with our passports for our materials in the internet soon………….I wonder what happens to most of the internet media and their thuggish commentors???

    • 0
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      Sir Jove,

      “Jove Sir ??????????? CT publish this thuggary “

      HowI can I explain for a fellow human who doesn’t know the difference between Bollywood and Kollywood, the difference between Sir & Jove?

      ” Anyway they say we all have to identify ourselves with our passports for our materials in the internet soon………….I wonder what happens to most of the internet media and their thuggish commentors “
      Comedy Thamai!
      In that case why do you get into unwanted troubles, unnecessary, my poor chap? Listen; first let me put you at your ease. I go everywhere in the night, but not with gun; so be assured if you happened to see me in front of your house, I wouldn’t have a gun with me!

      Then can you explain me what do you understand by the word “INTERNET”? Then, who told it, as you are saying as “They say it”? Do you go to the Maruthanamadam fish market and spend long time chatting with those women? And who is bringing that law? SLFP New King who successfully failed to introduce death Penalty? Or is it google? Facebook? Social Media? Your local ISP? American British, government like rulers control the Internet trunk companies & satellite companies? Do you think CT may not have a Passport to Show to Boris Johnson when he asks CT for one? Do you understand what is freedom speech & UN Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

      Now please allow me to get you out of the well you have fallen into. In the Western world, almost restaurants, Many play places, many parks, all public libraries, All railway & subway stations, all busses, all three level governments’’ labor depts. & Offices, ……. all give free internet for all visitors. NY senator one time asked to install on all light posts a router to relay it free for all homes. Whom do you think going to employ police, immigration & customs to check the Passport?
      We don’t want to go into IT of internet.

  • 1
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    “The story with the background of slum dwellings in Chennai, Tamil Nadu,”

    I did not know there are slums in the Tamil capital, Tamil Nadu. I did a search and found that “a total of 29% of Chennai population resided in slums as of 2011.” How can this be? Everyday on CT, readers are writing about “Sinhala modayas” and Tamil achievements. Amarasiri is constantly reminding readers of Sinhalese having an IQ of 70 (false statistic). Some readers claim Tamil is the oldest language, oldest civilization, etc. We can see with this 29% SLUM statistic the cat has come out of the bag!

    • 2
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      Please don’t bring ethnic animosity when people appreciate a good movie.

      • 1
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        Laksiri Fernando,

        You are attributing poverty in Chennai to neoliberalization and globalization. I am attributing it something else, called casteism. One only need compare India and China to understand the dynamics.

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