Sometimes a film impresses you right from the word go. It consistently meets or even surpasses your expectations as the story unfolds, but somehow, just the way it ends disappoints you. Kannathil Muthamital is that kind of a film for me.
Mani Ratnam’s biggest strength is to make films which despite being unconventional are very mainstream. Kannathil Muthamital is no exception. Here he tackles subjects like adoption and the LTTE movement in Srilanka. But he does not fail even once to take the lowest common denominator of the audience into consideration. It is a feature which was evident in the recent Hindi film Paan Singh Tomar as well. In Kannathil Muthamital, an almost 9 year-old Amudha(P.S. Keerthana) doesn’t know that she is an adopted child. Her parents G.Thiruchivelan(Madhavan) and Indra(Simran) have decided to let her know the truth on her 9th birthday. Amudha gets a little disturbed on knowing the truth and is determined to know the identity of the woman who gave her birth. She even flees away from home in her search to Rameshwaram which is Indra and Thiruchivelan’s hometown and also the place from where Amudha was adopted.Thus forcing her parents to tag along who finally give in to her plea and agree to fly to Srilanka to find Amudha’s biological mother as she is most likely to be found there.
In the lovely prologue, we are introduced to Amudha’s biological parents Shyama and Dileepan, a newly married Tamil speaking Srilankan couple. The war-torn land is no ideal place to grow a child and hence Dileepan, who is involved in the war, doesn’t want a child as of now much against Shyama’s wishes. He gets sucked into the war and doesn’t return home for days. Meanwhile, despite their planning Shyama gets pregnant and hence is rushed across the shore to India as there are much better facilities there. The prologue ends withShyama reaching a Refugee Camp in Rameshwaram in India and delivering a baby girl, whom she leaves to the care of an orphanage and returns to Srilanka to join her husband.
It surely is a fascinating plot and Mani Saar, as expected, is up to the task. The prologue very effectively gives you an idea of the whole situation of Srilankan Tamils. Also,the soulful Vellai Pookal sung and composed by A.R.Rahman plays in the background during this part, all of which enchant you instantly. But the high point of the film for me is easily the camaraderie among Amudha and the family which has adopted her. The film has quite a few exceptional scenes involving Amudha, Thiruchivelan and Indra. One of them is a scene where Amudha after a long and hard try does manage to make Indra forgive her mischief. At this moment Thiruchivelan is keenly observing the mother-daughter pair embracing each other as Indra accepts Amudha’s apology. Well aware of Thiruchivelan’s habit of getting inspired from real life situations in his writing, Amudha and Indra both playfully threaten him from including the just happened events, involving themselves, in his novels.
Madhavan’s performance was a revelation for me. This is by far the best I have seen him acting on screen. The character sketched for him by Mani Ratnam is definitely a triumph. A popular andemphatic writer, Thiruchivelan is a thoughtful, polite, firm and straightforward man. He doesn’t like free advice andcounts the belief that to become a writer you need to have a spark since birth as an absolute lie. Thiruchivelan always has his wits about himself and to pacify Amudha he does give in to her demand and decides that they will go to Srilanka to search Amudha’s biological mother.
Simran too is spot on playing Indra. The slightly low-tempered but a caring and loving mother, Indra is also a news reader on a TV channel. She is particularly impressive in the flashback romance segment of the film. Here too Mani Ratnam shows his class. Ravi K. Chandran’s cinematography also shines out in this part which is shot in the coastal town of Rameshwaram.Neighbours since childhood Simran&Thiruchivelan have a thing for each other. And it is Simran here who is chasing Thiruchivelan. A scene where she is trying hard to keep up with Thiruchivelan on her bicycle while he is riding a scooter impresses you with its freshness and unconventionality. Thiruchivelan wants to adopt a little girl(Amudha) but can’t as he is a single man and thus finally expresses his love to Indra and they decide to get married. This is why he tells Amudha that they didn’t choose her but she chose them.
But the star of the film is without doubt the little Amudha played by P.S. Keerthana. The talkative, slightly mischievous character could have easily become highly irritating (like in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain), but it doesn’t and thus Keerthana’s performance deserves appreciation. With Anjali, Mani Ratnam had ample experience of extracting the best from children which is a difficult task indeed. Nandita Das, as usual, is up to the mark and J.D. Chakravarthy too doesn’t fail to leave an impression in his short role.
The music by A.R.Rahman without doubt is top class. However, some songs like Vellai Pookal and Amudha’s intro song Sundari gel very well with the film but others like KannathilMuthamital don’t take the story one bit forward. But to compensate the song Kannathil Muthamital has been shot marvelously. Ravi.K.Chandran has been given a free hand and he holds nothing back with a number of breathtaking helicopter shots, crane shots etc on the vast empty expanse of a beach. Even in this highly stylized song there is one moment which stands out for its innocence which is when the camera attached on the crane comes closer to Amudha we see her just about managing to keep her dress from blowing up because of the breeze, a la Marylin Monroe, and hence she gives animpromptu sweet-shy smile.
What also adds to the film’s victory is the writing by Mani Ratnam and Sujatha. Getting to make a film against the back-drop of the Sri-Lankan crisis was never going to be an easy task at all. While we can always debate as to how effective was the portrayal of the conflict in Sri Lanka as shown in the film, we definitely need to admit that there was no glorification of the issue , any overt statement issued or a stand taken per se. In the end in spite of the serious context of violence hovering around, Kannathil Muthamittal still fundamentally remains a simple story of a girl in search of her parents. That we remain glued to Amudha’s journey till the end is in itself a victory for Mani Sir as most of us might agree by now.
Now, let’s come to the disappointing part. It all starts when the family flies to Srilanka. Though the introduction scene to LTTE activism is brilliant, some scenes after that start to get a bit conventional. Some even defy logic and thus leave you disappointed. But nothing upsets you as much as the finale. Mani Ratnam, as a director, is brilliant in the rest of the film but wonder why he opts to finish of the movie in such a manner. The restraint and freshness visible right throughout the film suddenly gives in to melodrama. Some dialogues become predictable and the background score also becomes loud. Sadly, the finale pales in comparison to the excellent built up.
Despite the final moments, Kannathil Muthamital is an eminently watchable film. The performances, the music, the cinematography would definitely not leave you disappointed as a whole.
Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:
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