Soodhu Kavvum is a 2013 Tamil black comedy-crime film directed by Nalan Kumarasamy. It features Vijay Sethupathi and Sanchita Shetty in the lead roles. The film was released on 1 May. The film’s main concept is about how silly talk has engulfed people’s day-to-day life and modern society. The film received positive reviews from critics and become a commercial success.
Friends Kesavan, Sekar and Pagalavan meet Das, a middle-aged man with an imaginary (revealed towards the end) girlfriend Shalu who does low-profile kidnappings for a living. Because they are broke, the trio decide to become his assistants. Das follows five rules of kidnapping (which he spells and writes as “kednaping”), the first of which is to avoid kidnapping people from political backgrounds. One day, they kidnap a young boy and successfully obtain ransom money from his father Nambikkai Kannan. Nambikkai’s contractor brother has been arrested for attempted bribery by State Minister Gnanodayam, a disciplined politician who plays by the book. Impressed with Das’ kidnapping skills, Nambikkai asks him to kidnap Gnanodayam’s son Arumai Pragasam as revenge and offers to pay Das up to ₹2 crore (equivalent to ₹2.4 crore or US$350,000 in 2016).
The next day, the four men set out to kidnap Arumai, but are astonished to see him be kidnapped by another group. They kidnap Arumai from the other kidnappers and discover that the first kidnapping was staged by Arumai himself to extort money from his father. Arumai manages to convince Das and his men to collude with him to obtain ransom money from his father. The group demand ₹2 crore from the minister and receive the money.
An argument over splitting the cash arises between Arumai and the rest during which their van loses control and falls from a bridge. Arumai runs away with all the money. The minister seeks the assistance of encounter specialist Bramma, a brutal and merciless policeman to hunt down the kidnappers. Arumai returns to his house and hides the money in his room. Das devices a plan to kidnap Arumai again to retrieve the money. They accidentally meet Arumai and successfully kidnap him again. But Das lets Arumai go free, after making him promise that he should not tell anything about them to the police. Arumai also promises to return their share of the money. Bramma learns that Arumai staged his own kidnapping and uses this information to threaten Arumai into testifying against the Das gang.
Arumai tells the court that the Das gang did not kidnap him and they are acquitted. Enraged, Bramma takes the gang to a remote location and brutally beats them and raises his department gun to kill them. Instead of shooting them with the officially issued gun, he goes out and retrieves from his police jeep an illegal homemade gun that he had previously seized from a crook. When he inserts that gun behind his back in his pants, the rusty gun misfires into Bramma’s buttocks, allowing Das and others to escape. Arumai’s father breaks in and takes the money bag to the Chief Minister, who provided the ransom money. When he opens the bag, the minister is shocked to find it filled with newspapers instead of cash. Arumai had transferred the cash to another bag and gives the Das gang their share.
The Chief Minister calls Arumai to his office and asks him to stand as a candidate in the upcoming elections in lieu of his father, who never brought much income to the party due to his refusal to be corrupt. The Chief Minister praises Arumai’s shrewdness and believes he can rake in substantial income for the party. Arumai wins the election and appoints Sekar and Kesavan as his personal advisers, while Pagalavan becomes an actor. Das continues his kidnapping business with a new band of young men. They kidnap a woman who looks exactly like Shalu, belatedly realising that she Shalini Gupta, a minister’s daughter; Das has broken his first rule of kidnapping again.
• Vijay Sethupathi as Das
• Bobby Simha as Pagalavan
• Ashok Selvan as Kesavan
• Ramesh Thilak as Sekhar
• Karunakaran as Arumai Pragasam
• Sanchita Shetty as Shalu/Shalini Gupta
• Radha Ravi as the Chief Minister
• M. S. Bhaskar as Gnanodayam
• Yog Japee as K Bramma
• Aruldoss as Rowdy Doctor/Das’s brother
• Anjali Rao as IT Girl
• Sivakumar as Nambikkai Kannan
• “Boys” Rajan as AC Manikandan
• Radha as Arumai Pragasam’s mother
• Gaana Bala in the song ‘Kaasu Panam’
• Karthik Subbaraj as Jaguar’s owner
• Yogi Babu
The satellite rights of the film were sold to Zee Thamizh. Soodhu Kavvum was released on 1 May 2013 alongside Ethir Neechal and Moondru Per Moondru Kadhal.
Soodhu Kavvum opened to positive reviews. Baradwaj Rangan from The Hindu stated “Nalan Kumarasamy’s Soodhu Kavvum is a demonstration of what’s possible when films are made for the sheer joy of making films. There isn’t a single calculated moment, something cynically aimed to satisfy this segment of the audience or that one. Everything is organic, the events rooted in a nutty story and sprouting through a brilliant screenplay”. S Saraswathi from Rediff gave 3.5 stars out of 5 and wrote “Soodhu Kavvum is an engaging film, with ingenious characters and entertaining situations” and called it a “must-watch”. N Venkateswaran from The Times of India gave 4 out of 5 stars and wrote “Nalan Kumarasamy establishes himself as a director to watch out for in this laugh riot of a debut film. Carrying off a dark comedy is no mean task, but Nalan hits the target right in his first attempt. His writing is crisp, the lines are down to earth and funny, the characters well-etched and the screenplay has no dull moments”. Sify wrote “Soodhu Kavvum works big time due to smart writing and perfect characterisation. Final verdict on Soodhu Kavvum is that it is a gutsy great film. It is one of the best films to have emerged out of Kollywood in a long, long time”. Cinemalead wrote “Soodhu Kavvum is definitely a new attempt in Tamil cinema, go for it.”
Malini Mannath from The New Indian Express wrote “Engaging screenplay, deft narration, well-etched characters and twists and humour generated at unexpected moments, make Soodhu Kavvum a wacky jolly fun ride”. Behindwoods gave 3 stars out of 5 and said “Soodhu Kavvum’s scoring area is definitely its characterisations as Nalan Kumarasamy offers each of the central characters a back story that’s unique and more importantly contributing to the character’s present circumstance”. Haricharan Pudipeddi gave 3 stars out of 5 and stated “Soodhu Kavvum an entertaining watch”. Vivek Ramz from In rated the film 3.5 out of 5 and wrote “Soodhu Kavvum is a total laugh riot!
Sudhish Kamath later picked Soodhu Kavvum as one of five films that have redefined Tamil cinema in 2013, writing, “This film is a joy to watch, full of laughs and unpredictable situations with great wit, dark humour and satire. Writer-director Nalan Kumarasamy, the winner of the first season of Nalaya Iyakkunar, is one of the most exciting filmmakers of our times with his ability to turn a cliché on the head”. The film was also featured in IANS’s list of 10 best southern films of 2013, who called it “unarguably the funniest film of the year”. Sifi and Rediff listed the film in the year-end top Tamil films lists too. The film was selected for screening in the Zurich Film Festival, being the only Tamil film of 2013 to be screened there.
Soodhu Kavvum grossed ₹11.51 crore (US$1.7 million) in Chennai theatres on its first weekend. In its opening weekend it grossed ₹15.7 lakh (US$23,000) in US which was a disappointing result from overseas. The film had collected ₹5.2 crore (US$770,000) in two weeks in Tamil Nadu, according to IANS. In June 2013, IANS reported that it had earned ₹35 crore (US$5.2 million) totally.
After the film’s release, PVP Cinema purchased the Telugu remake rights in July 2013. The film has been remade in Telugu as Gaddam Gang with Dr Rajasekhar. The Kannada remake rights were bought by Rockline Venkatesh. Director Rohit Shetty has been signed for 25 crores to direct the Hindi remake.