I remember Vivek Oberoi’s debut back in 2002 in the Ajay Devgn-starrer ‘Company’. Oberoi played Chandu—a rookie henchman turned gangster—in one of the most iconic Hindi gangster films. The young Oberoi not only won the hearts of the audiences and critics alike but also went on to win multiple wards for his performance, promising a glorious career in Bollywood.
Fast forward to 2022 and Vivek Oberoi is no more a big name in Bollywood. His filmography is light in big banner films, which is surprising given his dashing debut. Although he has had a few commercial hits, they’ve mostly been ensembles with someone else taking the center-stage.
We don’t really want to get into Oberoi’s personal life and controversies. But it’s really painful to see an actor with so much potential go almost unnoticed in the Indian film industry.
Anyway, I first want to tell the audience that I watched the latest Malayalam language film ‘Kaduva’ just because Oberoi was in it—and also because Amazon Prime did not have anything more interesting to offer this week. Directed by Shaji Kailas, Kaduva is set in the late 90s in a village called Pala in Kerala, India.
Kaduvakunnel Kuriyachan aka Kaduva (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is a wealthy planter who lives in Pala with his wife Elsa and three children. Kaduva is known in the area not only as a successful businessman but also as a good, church-going Samaritan who helps everyone in need and goes out of his way to punish any wrongdoing.
These characteristics of Kaduva and an incident at the local church pit Kaduva against Joseph Chandy Ouseppukutty (Oberoi), the Inspector General of the region. The corrupt Joseph, backed by high ranking politicians, is one of the most powerful persons in the region. Riled up by Kaduva’s attitude towards him, Joseph lets loose a barrage of attacks against Kaduva and his family. Kaduva, the survivor that he is, fights back with full force.
‘Kaduva’ is a mainstream Malayalam movie. Meaning, rather than a strong script, storytelling and acting, there are other elements that appeal more to the mass: like the protagonist Kaduva sending policemen flying with his kicks and punches and not getting any major injuries himself no matter how hard he is hit.
Nevertheless, the film has a strong script and great execution. As the protagonist Kaduva, Prithviraj Sukumaran is highly convincing. The film’s also brought out by his own production company. The actor seems to know what he is doing: the movie has grossed well at box office.
But what Prithviraj and the filmmakers fail to do in ‘Kaduva’ is fully utilize the talents of Vivek Oberoi. The actor they borrowed from Bollywood has been reduced to an unintelligent antagonist who does not contribute much to the film’s outcome.
Although he has been given a very powerful position in the film, his character lacks that ferocity and intelligence expected of a villain. Oberoi does try to make an impact on the screen but is limited by what’s written for him. Disappointing, as he was the reason I watched the film in the first place.
Kaduva’s screenplay also leaves a lot of unanswered questions and little mysteries. It keeps the audience thinking till the very end and then in the climax, gives them a strong hint of a sequel. A clever ploy, I’d say. And I’d definitely want more of Vivek Oberoi if there’s a sequel.
Who should watch it?
‘Kaduva’ is not a bad film. Overall execution is pretty decent and readers who enjoy South Indian films will definitely like it. Vivek Oberoi fans will be a bit disappointed but the sequel looks promising for his character.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Action, drama
Actors: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Vivek Oberoi
Director: Shaji Kailas
Run time: 2hrs 35mins