<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam(2005) : a mixed bag
Balu Mahendra is one of the few Kollywood directors to have impressed me tremendously. I am not a big fan of Maniratnam or Bharatiraja and I have my reasons for that. A no-nonsense approach, businesslike in presenting his ideas, no unnecessary frills(compared to his peers), cuts to the point quickly, Balu stands yards ahead of the rest. One major USP is slick camera work. And the other selling point is he presents the story in a very unobtrusive fashion - allows the viewer to soak in the message quietly. Now all the above applies when he hits all the right notes. There are some jarring notes in his movies as well.
Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam is the first Dhanush movie I watched. I am quite averse to watching movies featuring Kollywood upstarts but gave it a dekko purely for the Balu factor.
Dhanush is another insolent middle class wastrel with a doting mum and a concerned dad. A youngster just out of college spending his time hanging out with a gang of friends. Priyamani is the daughter of the domestic and Dhanush's childhood friend. Her mother's sickness forces her to take up the household chores in Dhanush's home and needless to say, they fall for each other. Something which raises the ire of his dad. A seemingly contrived chain of events leads to Dhanush murdering a guy and getting a ten year sentence. He makes good his escape at an opportune moment and the whole movie is based on his narration while hitching a ride in a lorry after his jailbreak.
The story is tangentially different from what it is in most Balu Mahendra movies. Predictably, in the first half he really struggles to make it click. At times one was left wondering if this was going to be a repeat of Pudhukottayilirindhu Saravanan or Boys, which dealt with teenagers going on wild flights of fancy. On expected lines, Balu throws in an item number - if he can squeeze in an item number for a serious flick like Julie Ganapathy, what to say of AOKK? His other regular ingredients are thrown in - an apartment complex, a domestic help to add a twist, street traffic and the honking of cars, quiet and moderated song sequences, scenic locales, and finally, Balu's subtle and unnecessary digs at sub-cultures he is not fond of.
Dhanush acts like a completely awkward teenage kid(the role demands it) while Priyamani is quite assured and convincing in her role. Although one wonders how a domestic's daughter can speak in a refined and polished fashion, much less have a convincing relationship with a middle-class chap. The dialogues are quite crude and in-the-face, leaving the viewer squirming. The portions dealing with prison life have a generous dose of violence. While Balu infuriates initially, the second half is a whole lot better in terms of flow and undoes a lot of damage. The ending is very weird, abrupt and illogical. Thankfully he did not finish it in sadistic fashion like RK Narayan.
Priyamani, a Palakkad import, seems to be getting ample opportunites with good directors - Kangalal Kaidhu Sei with Bharatiraja, Satyam(Malayalam) with Vinayan were her other films before AOKK. Has a striking resemblence to Suhasini in many shots. She shows promise but I wonder if the curse on tamil films on actresses not getting the right roles will affect her as well. Illayaraja has done a great job with some eighties' style songs. Raja elevates the movie with his background score as only he can.
Word is out that Balu is working on his swansong movie, a story based on Eelam. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one, hoping Batticaloa's most famous son will give us something special for the last time.