By Vivek Ramz
Madras Talkies' 'Kadal' released without much fanfare and is bound to go unnoticed not just because of 'Vishwaroopam' controversy but because the film has neither a solid plot nor Mani’s class touch. It’s often hard to believe that 'Kadal' is a Mani Ratnam film when you leave the cinemas, especially since Ratnam's given us so many classics. Alas, after watching 'Kadal', you'll think that even his last film ‘Raavanan’ was a classic (it was NOT) compared to this one.
What's it about?
The film opens with a weak prologue to introduce the main characters and thereby gives too much of the story away in the first few minutes. Bergman (Arjun), a bright but disobeying student, gets ousted from a seminary after he gets caught red-handed with a woman by Sam (Aravind Swamy). He challenges Sam that evil will reign supreme in the world and he will take revenge soon.
Years later, Sam comes to a seaside village as a priest and hopes to revive the religious spirit in the minds of the people. He meets an abandoned child Thomas there and brings him up, trying to teach him his principles. Thomas grows upto be unruly young man (Gautam Karthik) but respects Sam for what he is. To his surprise, Sam meets Bergman again and nurses him back to health after Bergman is wounded. But as expected, Satan (as Bergman calls himself) exacts revenge on Sam by making false accusations and gets him sent to jail. Bergman takes Thomas under his wing and makes him a thug. Thomas meets Beatrice (Thulasi Nair), a nurse with a child’s mind, and falls for her. What Sam couldn’t achieve for years, Beatrice does for Thomas, and in few months he's undergoes a change in personality. Will the evil Bergman let him go and will the equation between Sam and Bergman be settled?
The story is very simple and old-fashioned. It’s a good vs. evil tale in a Christian fishing village and is narrated in a straightforward way. The film regains ground after a weak start with interesting happenings in the first hour, but soon loses the fizz because of predictable and poor screenplay. The ending looked totally amateurish and silly. Mani Ratnam’s narrative, which is his strength in other films, is pretty bad in 'Kadal', especially in the second half of the film. The way in which Thomas changes hands from Sam to Bergman, which is an important part of the film, is told in a hurried manner and thereby loses impact. The romantic track between the lead pair, which is heavily advertised, is half baked and also side-lined, losing its importance in the story. Mani Ratnam and Jeyamohan worked overtime in getting the slang right, rather than the message.
Except Sam and Thomas to certain extent, the characters are poorly sketched without the much required depth. So though the actors have performed their best, the script fails them. Arjun has given a sublime performance but the weak characterization let him down. Gautam has made a promising debut and scored well in few scenes, whereas Thulasi has a lot to improve on in the acting department. Arvind Swamy has made a good comeback. Lakshmi Manchu and Ponvannan make an impact even though they have very little screen time.
Kadal is technically sound and Rajeev Menon’s cinematography is a delight to watch. His work, particularly in the climax sequences in the midst of storm, is spellbinding. Art director Shashidar Adapa portrays the lives of the fisherman community superbly on screen with his mastery in sets. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is below par and his potential is not put in good use by Mani Ratnam. Brinda’s choreography, which is almost the same as in previous Mani films, is okay. AR Rahman once again weaved magic and delivered world class music. He tried different genres and it worked wonders. Each and every song is a gem and stands out beautifully even with the boring storyline. Songs are the big saving grace in an otherwise forgettable film.
What to do?
'Kadal' is a tiring watch and recommended only for die-hard Mani Ratnam fans. Others had best stay away, as watching it might affect your respect for this film-maker.
in.com rating: 2.5/5
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