Kaaka Muttai (Eng: The Crow’s Egg) is a 2014 Indian Tamil comedy-drama film written, directed and filmed by M Manikandan. Jointly produced by Dhanush and Vetrimaaran and distributed by Fox Star Studios, it features newcomers, Vignesh and Ramesh, in the lead roles alongside Iyshwarya Rajesh. And has music composed by G V Prakash Kumar.
Kaaka Muttai’s story revolves around two slum children of Chennai, Tamil Nadu whose desire is to taste a pizza. The film had its world premiere on 5 September 2014 at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival, and was released worldwide on 5 June 2015, and received widespread acclaim for its story and cast performances. It went on to win two National Film Awards at the 2015 ceremony – Best Children’s Film and Best Child Artist (Ramesh and Vignesh).
In a tiny concrete-and-tin Chennai home in the slums live two young brothers with their mother and grandmother. With the boys’ father in prison for unknown reasons and with an ageing mother-in-law, the mother does her best to keep the kitchen fires burning. The brothers spend their time playing games and stealing and devouring eggs from crows’ nests. Their love for these eggs leads them to start calling themselves “Periya Kaaka Muttai” (Crow’s Egg the Elder) and “Chinna Kaaka Muttai” (Crow’s Egg the Younger).
The young boys constantly beg their mother and grandmother for toys they cannot afford, and later for a television. They don’t yet understand that the two women can’t give them everything they want. When their mother and grandmother finally do bring home a television – a gift from the government to ration card holders who live below the poverty line – it’s like the opening of a portal. The boys see a pizza commercial on TV whose steaming, slow-motion images make the unfamiliar food look like manna from heaven. Meanwhile a brand new pizzeria comes up in the neighbourhood, and actor Silambarasan alias Simbu comes to its opening. Remembering the looks of enjoyment on Simbu’s face when he tasted a pizza at the pizzeria, the boys thereafter think of nothing else but getting their first taste of a pizza.
The brothers go to the railway tracks each morning to collect the charcoal that falls off goods trains. They sell the charcoal at a scrap metal shop and are paid for their trouble. They usually hand the money over to their mother who is saving up to pay their lawyer to get her husband out of jail. But once the boys become aware of the cost of a pizza, they begin saving the money for themselves instead, lying to their mother that they have not collected any charcoal since they were out playing.
The boys succeed in saving the 300 required to buy a pizza, but are shooed away by the watchman of the pizza shop since they are badly dressed, which reflects the fact that they are local slum-dwellers. The boys narrate this story to their friend Pazharasam who works as a lineman with the Railways. He tells them that people place a lot of importance on clothes and advises them to save up and purchase new dresses before approaching the pizza outlet again.
The boys go on to work again to save money for buying new clothes at Chennai Citi Centre. In the meantime, they show their grandmother the pamphlet from the pizza shop. She tries to make them a home-cooked pizza using dosa batter as base, but the boys deride her attempts and insult her.
After finally saving up enough money for new dresses when the boys see Citi Centre, they realise that it is another big mall which would definitely not allow them inside. But they somehow manage to acquire a newly bought pair of clothes from a couple of rich children by buying them panipuri from a street vendor, much against the wishes of the rich boys’ father, who had denied them the treat as he considered it unhygienic.
The happy brothers return to the pizza shop in their new dresses. Another group of slum boys who are envious and sceptical about the brothers’ story about going to eat pizza follows them to take a video of what transpires with the brothers at the pizza shop. The brothers are once again confronted by the watchman and he now forces them to go home right away but the boys protest by saying that they have money and are wearing new clothes. This argument attracts the attention of the pizzeria supervisor who comes out and slaps the older brother. This is caught on video by the other slum kids who laugh at the brothers’ humiliation.
The sad and disappointed brothers return to their slum only to be further overwhelmed by the miserable sight of their dead grandmother. The brothers feel guilty when they remember insulting their grandmother some time before.
When two men in the slum happen to watch the video of the boy being slapped, they try to make money by threatening the owner of the pizza shop to release the video to the media. The owner realises he could be imprisoned and his pizzeria sealed by the government due to his supervisor’s act of discrimination and violence against slum children. He offers one of the men a hundred thousand rupees for not making the video public. The man agrees, but his associate releases it to the media hoping to make some money (unaware of the huge sum being offered). This stirs up tension amongst the pizzeria’s owners who finally decide to publicly apologise to the slum kids.
The boys are welcomed to the pizza spot in a red carpet reminiscent of Simbu being welcomed in the opening ceremony of the pizzeria. The owner also promises them free pizzas for life. Even as the brothers begin to finally enjoy their first pizza, they tell each other that the dosa-pizza which their grandmother had earlier made for them had tasted much better.
Directed by M Manikandan
Produced by Dhanush & Vetrimaaran
Written by M Manikandan
Starring Vignesh, Ramesh, Iyshwarya Rajesh
Music by G V Prakash Kumar
Edited by Kishore Te
Production Wunderbar Films & Grass Root Film Company
Distributed by Fox Star Studios
Release dates 5 September 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
5 June 2015 (Worldwide)
Running time 109 minutes
Budget 7 million (US$100,000)
Box office 500 million (US$7.5 million)