The Crow’s Egg is a simple yet effective satire that sheds light on the impact of globalisation on different sections of Indian society. The idea, so vast in scope, is conveyed with an acute narrative focus. Writer-director M. Manikandan never loses sight of the emotional stronghold of the film – the overarching desire of two young boys to taste pizza for the first time. It’s a straightforward plot device that works rather efficiently in carrying the audience along.
The film charts the journey of two brothers who dub themselves ‘The Little Crow’s Egg’ and ‘The Big Crow’s Egg’ respectively. Though poor in terms of monetary wealth, they more than make up for it in terms of street smartness. Quick-witted and always ready to think out-of-the-box to get what they want, their world is turned upside down when their household welcomes the arrival of the television. The idiot box brings with it its own kind of seduction: the infinite allure of brand advertising. And the young boys are perfect targets. They see an ad for a pizza, which due to its aesthetic depiction, seems like something straight from heaven. Never ones to back down from a challenge, the two boys go on a journey to taste their very own slice from heaven.
Much ink has been spilled about how the insidious world of brand advertising – especially food chains – seem to selectively target children because they are easier to market to. The Crow’s Egg is not a discursive dialectic on this debate, but Manikandan is able to put his views across in a clever, yet subtle manner. The impact of big brand advertising on the unsuspecting household of the two boys is evident. It’s funny how we’ve come to see ourselves as consumers, expected to exercise at least a basic level of media literacy, while conveniently forgetting that there are sections of society who haven’t yet been exposed to the relentless assault of media advertising that we’ve become accustomed to. This idea has an added impact when examined against the backdrop of the increasing wealth and social status divide in India.
The escalation of the narrative – spiralling into a case of political and media frenzy – is reminiscent of another effective Indian satirical piece called Peepli Live (2010) that explored the issue of Indian farmers committing suicide from a deliberately absurd perspective. However, Manikandan keeps the emotional focus intact: he is able to tie all the narrative subplots back to the quest of the two young boys and in turn, help the audience navigate the absurd hodge-podge.
The score by G.V. Prakash Kumar compliments the chaotic absurdity of the narrative. The peppy and effervescent tunes that mark the journey of the two boys are in stark contrast to the reality of their task. The penchant towards black humour through the use of the musical score is a clever way to not detract from the narrative focus. Manikandan’s cinematography (he seems to be a one-man army here and in a many ways, he truly is) cleverly juxtaposes the social status of the slums against the hustle-bustle and seemingly unending monetary allure of life in the city. It’s yet another effective device that heightens the absurdity of the narrative.
In terms of performances, the two young boys (played by Ramesh & Vignesh) really carry the film. They warm your heart with an earnest performance and display an emotional acting range that belies their age (perhaps that might be due to the lack of self-awareness in front of the camera). Their characterisation also lends them a wily almost adult-like sensibility, as the narrative never treats them as ‘children’.
The strength of the film is its simplicity, but in some ways, it’s also a missed opportunity. The film never transcends the conventional ‘quest narrative’ even though the escalation of the narrative arc provided plenty of opportunity for it to do so. There are several tangents that are left unexplored in the hurry to return to the quest. While this does provide a kind of narrative cohesion, it also robs the opportunity to fully explore those tangents and subplots.
The Crow’s Egg is an enjoyable experience. Its satirical coating is wrapped around a strong emotional core that drives the narrative forward. This is just a film about two boys trying to taste a slice of heavenly pizza for the first time, but in starting with that premise, it becomes so much more.