Director: Manu Ashokan
Cast: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas, Aishwarya Lekshmi
The screenwriter Bobby-Sanjay and director Manu Ashokan, come back together for another film after Uyare—Kaanekkaane which stars Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas, and Aishwarya Lekshmi. Like in Uyare, Kaanekkaane is about two layers of stories, and neither one is more important than the other. Usually, you have a text story and a sub-text kind of story, but here both are important and they keep shifting so it feels like the soil is shifting beneath our feet as we are watching the movie.
One layer of the story like in Uyare again is the arc of the protagonist which is played by Suraj Venjaramoodu, and the second beautiful layer of the story is about the deeply psychological nature of human beings in general. I have to sing words of praise for Suraj Venjaramoodu’s performance in this movie. The man is magnificent and it is amazing how much of an emotional through-line there is in the performance. There is not one note, that is up or below and if you want me to choose a word for his performance, it is contained, or measured. Every emotion of his is contained and measured.
Let us take the scene where he meets his grandson for the first time. His joy is contained, his emotions are contained because he is not sure if the kid is going to remember him or love him back the same way he loves him. His confusion is also contained. Later in another scene, you see him crying under a tree, but he isn’t crying in a conventional way. Even his crying is contained and measured. He can let go because there is nobody around who knows him. Just a random guy sitting beside him, but Suraj is like that to the world in general, as he is to the world that he knows.
My favourite moment of his performance or the measured nature of his performance comes in the form of a contained snub or measured snub that Suraj gives to a man, who says, why don’t you stop what you’re doing. Basically Suraj tells the guy to shut up and f**k off. But this is not how he says it. He says, you don’t know the person I am talking about, you haven’t even seen the person I am talking about, I know this person that I am talking about, so shut the f**k up and go your own way. But because the performance was so contained, the snub itself is a lot lesser than what it would be like if someone actually said ‘shut the f**k up’.
The beauty of the film is in the back and forth screenplay, which kind of plays with time as in there is a past set of events and present set of events. Sometimes it takes us a couple of seconds to even know which timeline we are in, are we in the past or the present? And another beautiful thing that Bobby-Sanjay do is that they replicate events, the same event is shown, almost as a continuation from the past to the present.
The story is about this elderly government servant, played by Suraj Venjaramoodu, and his interaction with this young couple played by Tovino Thomas and Aishwarya Lekshmi, the Mayanadi pair. There is also a grandson and a woman from the past and they are related in a way that I absolutely won’t talk about because I want you to have the same fun of discovery I had while watching it.
What I will talk about are the two layers in the film, that keep shifting under our feet, as we keep watching. The first layer like I had already mentioned is the arc of the character played by Suraj Venjaramoodu. This plot-line is kind of investigative and it has to do with mystery and a mysterious voice note on a phone, a mysterious sight of an accident, a mysterious fact that a grave has been unattended for a long time. It is lying there with dried leaves scattered all over it and nobody seems to have visited the grave in a very very long time, and the best thing that the director does here are the musical cues that are over the top and I think that they are deliberately over the top because of the way the violins and other instruments come in. It is like watching a film where a killer is suddenly going to leap up from behind the curtains.
The other layer of the film is the psychological layer in the Tovino Thomas character. It is about guilt— should I have done something different?, maybe I could have behaved a little differently? The Aishwarya Lekshmi character, is about desperation, resentment, and the fact that her husband Tovino Thomas has stopped communicating with her in a meaningful manner, and with the Suraj Venjaramoodu character it is obsession and anger and more obsession and more anger.
I really loved Tovino’s character when he breaks down in a car, and we don’t go close to him, the director stays a little afar, yet we feel every tear that he sheds. There is another beautiful scene where Tovino talks to the character who plays his son and even not up close, we really get a sense of the emotions playing inside his head, as this conversation takes place. As for Aishwarya Lekshmi, she has a hard role to play, even though she is the cog in the wheel of the whole machine that the movie is moving on. She is a peripheral character, she has to do things to make her seem important and she does this without raising the pitch of the performance. She has to be a nice and smiling, very pleasant person to be around but at the same time, she has to make you feel all the wheels whirling inside her head.
It is only towards the end that I had a mixed feeling about the movie, and it’s about a very melodramatic event that happens, and this event helps things come full circle. For example, death is replaced with birth and finally, Suraj Venjaramoodu’s character understands another man, who was in his situation for a brief time and he finally understands, why such a person might have behaved in such a way in such a time. The reason I said I had a mixed feeling, in the end, is because this melodrama comes out of nowhere, till then the movie is not melodramatic except for those strings and deliberately heightened music. The reason the movie worked so beautifully is because it reminds us constantly of how flawed we are as human beings and how it is those flaws that make us human beings. Kaanekkaane is a beautiful film and I cannot wait to see what Manu Ashokan comes up with next.