Director Mu Maran’s directorial debut, 2018’s Iravukku Aayiram Kangal, despite not being a revelation in Tamil cinema’s tryst with the thriller genre, is a racy entertainer. The film was webbed with an intricate plot that was complex enough to get us hooked and was smart enough to not take its audience for granted. In his sophomore film, Kannai Nambathey, what’s repeated is the ‘eye’ reference in the title (which will also be the case with this review), a complex plot, and as a bonus, a decent attempt to connect both films. What’s missing is the imperative raciness in the screenplay and novelty in the convoluted plot, without which, the film loses stream way before its climactic reveals.
Kannai Nambathey follows the journey of Arun (Udhayanidhi Stalin) who, along with his new friend and roommate Somu (Prasanna), inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a murder. Like a toppled stack of dominoes, a series of events kickstart leading to bigger revelations. Sometimes we miss what’s right under our noses and sometimes there’s more to it than meets the eye, and that’s probably the idea behind the aptly titled Kannai Nambathey. Mu Maran takes the usual route we’ve seen with our thrillers in the set-up — introducing the main actors, the futile female lead whose closeness to Arun is established with a montage song, and the quintessential hero’s friend who disappears, thankfully, after the first few minutes. On paper, Kannai Nambathey sounds like an intriguing tale of what happens to a guy who goes out of his way to help a woman only to find her dead; the classic case of an ordinary guy pushed into extraordinary circumstances. But the film keeps throwing complex array of expositions at you until the very last reel.
Kannai Nambathey (Tamil)
Director: Mu Maran
Cast: Udhayanidhi Stalin, Prasanna, Aathmika, Srikanth, Bhumika, Subiksha Krishnan
Runtime: 130 minutes
Storyline: Two roommates find themselves in a tricky situation and their subsequent response to it opens a pandora’s box of complications
A certain amount of leeway for coincidences and the lack of logic is usually pardoned when it comes to thrillers, but the problem with Kannai Nambathey is how the whole film is constructed on the porous sands of fortuity. What we end up with is a house of cards that comes down crashing when we calculate the odds of its happenings. It’s no surprise when a character, who is not even related to the film’s story, randomly reappears in the context of providing comic relief at an integral part of the film, just out of sheer chance. By this time, you’re not laughing because of it, but at the film itself.
‘Kannai Nambathey’ is a classic song from MGR’s legendary 1975 film Ninaithadhai Mudippavan that roughly translates to ‘the one who accomplishes what he wishes’. Ironically, our lead Arun is anything but that and as a victim of circumstances, knows what’s transpiring way later than when he’s supposed to. Interestingly, it’s also the case with Arulnithi’s character Bharath in Iravukku Aayiram Kangal, but after getting pushed around for a while, Bharath gets into the groove. In Kannai Nambathey though, a couple of the age-old ‘I’m going to kill you, so how about you know what happened’ trope is what helps Arun catch up with the happenings.
The casting of the film got me excited given the list of talents it’s got. It has Udhay’s fellow cast member from the underrated Kanne Kalaimaane (the eye references keep writing themselves), Vasundhara. Kannai Nambathey also stars Bhumika and Srikanth who are reuniting after 20 years since Roja Kootam. But Kannai Nambathey reduces these talents to one-dimensional roles. Talk about having your childhood ruined! Multiple “twists” fill up the second half of Kannai Nambathey but by then, the audiences are so battered that some of the surprises end up being unintentionally funny. In a scene from the third act, a character goes, “Nanba nee serious ah pesuriya illa comedy panriyanu therila.” Touché.
Along with the twists come the expositions that hurriedly and conveniently try to unravel the knots that the film meticulously braided. Amidst all of this chaos, we get a cameo of sorts that connects this film with Mu Maran’s first outing. Who wants MCU when we can have our very own MMCU? Like an onion, Kannai Nambathey is a collection of layers that, when unravelled, have nothing at its core, apart from leaving us teary-eyed. Probably that also explains the title.
Kannai Nambathey is currently running in theatres
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