One half of Kaanekkaane has a man trying to find out if another was capable of doing what he thinks he did, and the other half about the second man trying to find out if the first might do something because of it. We get elements of investigative procedural, intriguing flashbacks and skewed family dynamics in another intellectually stimulating exercise from writers Bobby and Sanjay and director Manu Ashokan, known for their widely acclaimed collaboration Uyare. This time, they have opted for something that’s not as intense but discussion-worthy nonetheless. It’s safe to say Bobby and Sanjay have got their mojo back after the disappointing One.
I’m going to refrain from mentioning the film’s central incident because I want the reader to experience it in the same way I did—without knowing anything about its story or characters beforehand. Firstly, I must applaud the makers for coming up with a trailer that did not give anything away about the story. At a time when trailers for most direct-OTT releases look like visual plot summaries, it’s rare to see the release platform in this case opting for a vague trailer. (Kaanekkaane is the first direct-to-digital Malayalam release for SonyLIV.) I say this because Kaanekkaane is one of those films that takes its own time making its neat revelations. It’s not in a hurry—a quality that at times works to the film’s advantage and at others, to its detriment. You don’t get to know the characters fully until you’ve seen the third act. Everything else is just an assumption, and Kaanekkaane succeeds in making you assume different things until it shows you the truth.
In their previous screen outing Mayaanadhi, Tovino Thomas didn’t get to tie the knot with Aishwarya Lekshmi. In Kaanekkaane, they play a married couple, Alan and Sneha. Constant physical intimacy is not promised but not demanded either. There is a reason for that. A different kind of philosophy powers this relationship, which is being put to the test by someone seeking some answers: the man whose daughter Alan was married to earlier in the film. What happened to her? Who is responsible for a particular incident? Could it have been avoided if another person had made a different choice? Should that person be punished or left alone?
As the emotionally devastated Paul, Suraj Venjaramoodu steals the film from under the noses of all the other actors. A lonely family man, Paul is being sustained at the moment by the prospect of retribution and finding someone else to fill the huge void in his life. He is so persistent in his efforts that it almost verges on psychotic behaviour.
He got me thinking of Suresh Gopi’s character from Innale, not in terms of the nature of his relationship with the central couple, but in his dogged pursuit of repairing a loss in whatever way he can. Tovino and Aishwarya are not always effective in conveying their characters’ emotions. However, they excel in a couple of moments where they give us a tangible sense of their characters’ confusion and helplessness. One of the film’s overriding emotions is guilt engendered by a fleeting moment of moral ineptitude.
The most puzzling aspect of the film, though, is the single-tone delivery of their lines. It’s as though the actors joined the sets after completing a dental procedure and worried about the cotton balls dropping out. Before writing this review, I told a friend how the first 40 mins of the film made me feel drowsy because of the above reasons, and he said a cranked up playback speed (preferably x2) could’ve improved the experience. I’m inclined to agree with him. Another thing that bothered me is how the drama occasionally resembles that of a Malayalam television soap. Besides, the unappealing visual choices don’t help either. Perhaps this minimalism is deliberate to reduce costs or focus more on the performances and conflict.
That said, I loved how the film ended. It’s a lovely way to wrap things up after all the darkness everyone goes through. You expect the film to turn into a full-blown Changing Lanes-style drama, but it goes in a different, much welcome direction. What’s important is how it makes so much sense when you reflect, after the end credits roll, on everything a particular character did before. It is powerful enough to make one overlook the film’s shortcomings. I look forward to the next Bobby-Sanjay film.
Director: Manu Ashokan
Cast: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shruti Ramachandran
Streaming on: SonyLIV