Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Gautham Karthik, Thulasi Nair, Arvind Swamy and Arjun
The hype surrounding Mani Ratnam’s “Kadal” falls like a deck of cards as the credits roll down the screen. It is at this juncture, one comes to the conclusion that, not all films made by so-called legendary filmmakers will impress moviegoers. That said, every film by Mani Ratnam, is an experiment worth sincere dissection. In “Kadal”, Mani, in an effort to narrate a story of good versus evil, only ends up disappointing his fan boys and audience alike.
The story is simple. It’s about the battle between good versus evil, personified by Arvind and Arjun respectively. In it, is intertwined the love story of the lead pair, played by Gautham and Thulasi, with sea as the backdrop. In the battle of good versus evil, one has to win, which in most cases is good as audiences mostly are accustomed to happy endings, and therefore we have a clichéd climax.
A Mani Ratnam film, needless to say, draws lot of inquisitiveness in audiences from all categories but it’s not the same in this film. Right from the start, Mani steers his vessel aimlessly, trying desperately to give some biblical references in every frame. He does inspire sporadically just to remind us that the craftsmanship within him is alive and kicking strongly. The first half hour to 45 minutes raise hopes and pave way to certain level optimism, which is squandered little later in the second half.
While the film’s hero is young and energetic Gautham, but Mani’s old find, Arvind Swamy too has a good share of screen presence. Both, Gautham and Arvind, shoulder their roles with dedication and ease. It would be apt to say no actor of recent times had a better homecoming than Arvind, who lights up the screen as Father Sam. Gautham, coming from a lineage of actors, portrays confidence in his performance.
Mani, the master storyteller that he is, leaves one and all wondering at his creation, which he claims to be a love story. The romance in the film is introduced only in the second half, by when all patience is lost. The love angle is merely used to give a sense a relief or deliberately used as a sub-plot to engage those who may have failed to understand that the film revolves around Arjun (Bad) and Arvind (Good), mostly.
It’s a great effort by Ratnam, undoubtedly, but he screws up big time in the overall presentation. Obsessed by the gray elements, good and bad, Mani’s analogy doesn’t quite convince the viewers, let alone entertain. It’s sad that he couldn’t supersede his own expectations that are attached with his films such as “Nayagan”, “Roja” and “Kannathil Muthamittal” among many more.
Thulasi, with her limited screen presence doesn’t quite impress. May be if she was given ample screen time, then it would’ve at least made sense to discuss about her performance. Arjun does play his part well, and to see him in a negative role is a welcome change that may have opened doors to many to follow.
Rahman’s music leaves you in a state of predicament as the songs are soothing but we don’t get to see the best of the composer in the BGM department. To add to the woes, Mani literally kills the best song in the album – “Nenjukkule”, with shoddy picturization. Otherwise, Rajiv Menon is the hero of the film, brilliant behind the camera. Scenes in the sea, shot during Nilam storm, are visually endearing and uplifting.