Popular singer - lyric writer Arunraja Kamaraj makes his directorial debut with Kanaa, a sports - social drama starring Aishwarya Rajesh and Sathyaraj in the lead roles. Aishwarya plays Kousalya, a girl hailing from a humble village background in Kulithalai, Tamil Nadu. While her father Murugesan (Sathyaraj) struggles to make ends meet as a farmer, Kousalya overcomes all the social taboo associated with a girl playing a male-dominated sport and relentlessly chases her dream of becoming a professional cricketer.
Kousalya’s mother (played by Rama) is initially highly critical and resistant to her activities but she also roots for her daughter beyond a point. The bunch of boys who teach her the basics of the game also have a key part to play. The two child actors playing the younger versions of Aishwarya are adorable, particularly the pre-teenage girl.
Aishwarya has always been good while enacting emotional scenes. Here she goes several levels beyond her comfort zone and literally lives as a cricketer. Her off-spin bowling action would impress cricket aficionados. All the cricket training that she had for this film most definitely aids her performance and the film as a whole. Aishwarya can expect this film to do a world of good to her legacy as an actor.
Casting Sathyaraj as a father and a farmer is a masterstroke by Arunraja. The ace actor is in command of his craft as always, and the masses will connect to his character instantly. The film has a superbly shot international cricket match sequence towards the end. Kudos to cinematographer Dinesh Krishnan for the effort. Editor Ruben is in control of the proceedings and the interval block drama is structured and presented beautifully. The first half particularly is highly engaging. Composer Dhibu has delivered quite a few chartbuster songs for the film. His background score involves and engages the viewer even more.
The film gets stuck in melodrama and an emotionally manipulative zone when presenting the plight of farmers. It may feel as if the director has milked this sentiment but that’s the reality too and hence these scenes are bound to work with the audience. In the second half, the scenes in the national team’s training camp and the infighting between members of the team have the hangover of popular sports films like Chak De India and Dangal.
The one-sided romance track featuring debutant Darshan has a few funny sequences and a hummable melody number ‘Othaiyadi Pathayila’ sung by Anirudh. But it seems more like a forced inclusion to tone down the film’s seriousness. Seasoned actors like Rama, Ilavarasu and ‘Munishkanth’ Ramdoss deliver what is expected.
Kanaa has been produced by Sivakarthikeyan, who also has an extended cameo role in the film’s second half enacting the role of the coach to the Indian women’s cricket team. His part and its sequences would definitely remind you of what Shah Rukh Khan did in Chak De. But Sivakarthikeyan acquits himself well and looks the part as a fit and smart sportsman, with the right costumes and accessories. He deserves to be applauded for producing a film which has substance, good technical values and also the right mix of elements to hook the viewer.
Arunraja’s debut directorial is well-intentioned and ticks all the boxes required of a gallery pleasing film.