Director: Seenu Ramasamy
Cast: Udhayanidhi Stalin, Tamannaah, Vadivukarasi
Seenu Ramasamy’s latest, Kanne Kalaimaane begins with an extended sequence of a village festival. The sequence ends with a man dressed as a king (he is in costume) accosted by his moneylenders. They inquire about the locked house and demand their money. Now, the scene could have ended there. But Seenu Ramaswamy wants to make sure we see the irony, and thus, one of the moneylenders asks who he is dressed as. The man replies he is ‘Karnan’ and the irony is spat out as dialogue before the sequence ends. This need to spell everything out makes Kanne Kalaimaane underwhelming - it exists as a series of dialogues but never really transforms into moving cinema.
Considering that the film opens with finance issues, I expected it to be more about farmers and the problems that they face. Instead, the film meanders about in introducing its characters. We meet Kannan (a perfunctory Udhayanidhi Stalin), an organic farming enthusiast who runs a manure/compost business. As we are still wondering what this film is about, we meet Bharathi (Tamannaah, who truly warms up to her role only in the second half), a government rural bank manager who gets transferred to Kannan’s village. Sparks fly, families are introduced, and I am still wondering if the film is just about their love story. I had my reasons for being suspicious. We have an entire sequence that is devoted to NEET; there’s one more about farmer suicides. But neither really makes a case for the story that Seenu Ramaswamy is trying to tell -- which, as it turns out, is a family drama. In fact, it took me the entire runtime to realise that Kanne Kalaimaane is a family drama. The fact that the film ended abruptly, moments after my epiphany, didn’t really help either.
It isn’t that the director has given us a bad story, or characters, for that matter; it is the way this story is narrated. Both Bharathi and Kannan are mature and also sensible. The way they meet each other is particularly unique. (It is cute that they bond over Co-optex clothes.) Kannan encourages her to work after marriage, shares household work, and treats her with respect. After Dharma Durai, Seenu Ramaswamy gives us another modern woman protagonist in Bharathi - the no-nonsense, straight forward career woman. For long, I have had issues with how our modern women look on screen. A 'modern' woman is dressed in western clothes, with make-up on; loud and assertive. Bharathi is a refreshing change. In normal clothes, and with jasmine in her hair, she is quiet, but assertive. Meeting Kannan’s parents, she takes a seat on a bench without a second thought, while the other women are seated on the floor. She doesn’t want to wear make-up even on her wedding day. She isn’t a crusader, she doesn’t want to 'change' anyone. But she doesn’t lose her respect as well.
I wish Seenu Ramaswamy had shown similar restraint in narrating his story as well. The dialogues hammer information down our heads, things we should have interpreted or understood on our own. He wants us to know Bharathi is honest and level-headed. This literally translates into dialogues on two different occasions - “Bharathi na nermai. Bharathi na dhairiyam.” Kannan’s grandmother (Vadivukarasi) is overprotective of him - understandable, considering she has raised him after his mother passed away when he was young. But we also get an overly melodramatic flashback sequence where Kannan’s mother dramatically breathes her last, leaving her son in her mother-in-law’s custody. Adding to that effect is Yuvan Shankar Raja’s wailing background score that is too grim for this family story. It's almost like he was on a Peranbu hangover when scoring for this film. The superficial performances and the erring lip sync don’t help either.
Kanne Kalaimaane needed more conflict to make it the rousing family drama it aspires to be, and less spoon-feeding to make it a slice-of-life drama. However, firmly stuck in between the two, with multiple loose ends to boot, it becomes the latest example of how good stories don’t always translate to good cinema.