Director: Rajiv Menon
Rajiv Menon's second directorial venture Kandukonden Kandukonden, premiered on May 4th at Devi theatre in Chennai,
succeeds in both style and substance. Engrossing stuff and for the
most part well told. The story is a pleasant deviation from the run
of the mill Tamil film stories of sibling rivalry with rural
backdrop or superficial love getting into troubled waters for
reasons which are nothing more than a storm- in- a- tea- cup genre.
The theme dealing with the harsh lessons of life's realities is life
affirming and tugs at our heartstrings providing real emotional
connections. One can easily empathise with and relate to the pangs
born out of the plummeting fortunes of the main characters.
The story with a rural backdrop in the first half and with
autobiographical undertones as Rajiv himself has said elsewhere,
deals with a gamut of emotions and melange of characters who make a
contrast in character study. It is about a mother (Srividya) who
lives in a stately mansion with her father who is more or less a
vegetable and two daughters (there is a third one enacted by
Shyamili who has no significant role in the film). The daughters
Sowmya (Tabu) and the younger one Meenakshi (Aishwarya Rai) are
poles apart in temperament. Sowmya stoic, shy and slightly withdrawn
but highly sensitive and Meenakshi an intense effervescent dreamer.
There is battle-scarred handicapped Major Bala (Mammootty) who has
seen action as part of the IPKF in Sri Lanka and bogged down by the
futility of the same. He is now struggling to exorcise the ghost of
the past. Turning away from bullets to blossoms he runs a nursery
'Bala's Blossoms' and has a strong bond with the aforesaid
Sowmya, a computer-literate, lives with the burden of being
unlucky with one marriage proposal after another failing for no
fault of hers. She is branded as adishtam llataval (unlucky), in
one frustrated moment even by her own mother. Then comes Manohar, an
aspiring film director, into her life. No arranged marriage for
Meenakshi, she is sure of the stormy arrival of her Prince Charming
one day. Bala goaded by his uncle (Manivannan) falls in love with
Meenakshi but is mercilessly rejected by the girl. Meenakshi's dream
comes true when Srikanth the director of a Finance Company,
literally arrives floating into her life during a rainy spell and
sweeps her off her feet. Life goes on an even keel with the old man
who has been cut up with his daughter for marrying against his
wishes muttering just one word, 'uyi....u' off and on , the
significance of which escapes everyone till it is too late.
Then comes fate stalking stealthily and a series of betrayals
though not deliberate but mainly due to exigency and
misunderstanding follow. The old man dies, his prodigal son returns
after ten years with a greedy virago of a wife to claim the family
assets. Cheated of their inheritance the family is forced to migrate
to the city and pick up the pieces of their lives and start afresh.
After the initial struggles the girls get suitable jobs and they are
able to put their financial set up back on the track. But their
personal lives start unravelling at the seams.
The betrayed Meenakshi and the handicapped Major are now bonded
by scar tissue, both mental and physical. Rajiv Menon has worked out
some feel-good solutions in the end for the family to retain its
pride and happiness, but not on the expected lines thus retaining
the suspense. We come away with renewed hope, to realise however
deep is the despair there is something left to reach for.
The film offers many poignant moments, which linger in our
memory. The moment when the old man's Will jerks off the ground from
under the family's feet, when the girls are reduced to the level of
vassals and the family is finally forced to leave their ancestral
mansion, when the landlord threatens to evict them and the mother is
forced to pawn her jewellery - all these are some of the
Apart from thematic concerns the impeccable performance of the
film's high calibre star cast, melodious music by A.R.Rahman,
Vairamuthu's meaningful lyrics, Sujatha's witty yet gripping and
genuine-sounding dialogues are some of the strong points. Mammootty
as the handicapped Major has captured the vulnerability of the
character. He throws a fresh insight into our collective attitude to
war veterans when he says we honour the Kargil heroes but no one
remembers the 1500 IPKF soldiers who have laid down their lives
fighting someone else's war or places wreath in their memory. The
contemporary relevance and nuances of that piece of dialogue is not
to be missed.
Ajith, the current hit-merchant of Tamil cinema has given a
committed and powerful performance as Manohar. Tabu is appealing. In
the penultimate scene a successful Manohar comes to claim her hand,
but she cannot wrench herself free from the mindset that even he
considers her unlucky. She breaks down into violent sobs. The
talented actress excels here which incidentally is a scene okayed in
one take by the director. Goes to show the calibre of this actress.
Aishwarya as Meenakshi has once again proved that 'Hum Dil De Chukke
Sanam' was no flash in the pan and beauty and talent can go
together. Abbas is good as Srikanth. Among the others Manivannan
scores but one wishes he doesn't go at jet speed in dialogue
delivery. His attempts at matchmaking between the Major and
Meenakshi will evoke chuckles.
Anita Ratnam and Nizhalkal Ravi in the cameo roles of the greedy
sister-in-law of the girls and her hen-pecked husband, Sreevidya as
the mother and Raghuvaran as Sowmya's boss are effective.
The film is witty too without resorting to outrageous ribaldry in
the name of comedy. Settings in the first half are lush. Ravi
K.Chandran's camera captures nature's moods especially the rainy
spells when Srikanth and Meenakshi meet and again when they part,
the glory of the rural verdant valley dressed in greenery in the
first half, and the mood and atmosphere of modern life after the
The story demands soft tunes in South Indian Ragas and A. R.
Rahman's music fulfils the requirement. There is pleasing melody in
all the songs and the numbers 'Konchum mainakkale...', Kannamoochi
ennada..., and 'Enna solla pokiray...' will ring in the years for a
long time.The 'Smiai yai...' number bears the typicl Rahman
Editing should have been more slick especially in the first few
reels which would have made the movie a faster paced one.
Rajiv Menon, who has ideas and vision, has put his heart and soul into this film with broad family appeal and fine performances from the impressive star cast. But one grouse remains- Why didn't he make his mother, the well-known singer Kalyani Menon who still retains the mellifluous timber of her voice (She appears in the movie as Aishwarya's music teacher) sing a solo number in 'Kandukonden...'?