Kandukonden Kandukonden


  Director: Rajiv Menon
  Cast: Mammooty, Aishwarya Rai, Tabu, Abbas

  Release: 05.05.2000

Excellent storyline

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 Sowmya stoic, shy and slightly withdrawn but highly sensitive and Meenakshi an intense effervescent dreamer.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 family.

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 heart-wrenching moments.

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 interval.

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 stamp.

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...'?

Malini Mannath

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