Director: Avinaash Hariharan
Cast: Poorna, Bose Venkat, Vivek Prasanna, Radhakrishnan, Aaradhya
Writer: GR Aadithya
There's not a lot happening in Kannamoochi, written by GR Aadithya (who previous directed Savarakathi). There's little plot or character development. It calls itself a thriller but there's barely a mystery to be solved; Kannamoochi is made interesting by lacing it with aspects of horror. It's not the kind of horror where strange-looking apparitions appear in jump scares. Instead, it depicts the everyday nature of child molestation, and the possibility that a friend or relative of the parent might be the perpetrator. Even if that's not 'horror', it is chilling, and, in places, outright horrific.
Priya (Poorna) is searching for her five-year-old daughter Aishu (Aaradhya). The way she goes out looking for her with her friends makes up the thriller part of the story. Seasoning this with elements of the horror genre is really the only innovative aspect of Kannamoochi. GR Aadithya infuses the plot with a quiet, creeping dread. The ghost is humanised here (as it was in Mysskin's Pisaasu). She looks like a harmless 11-year old. Yet, we are afraid because we know she is always watching everything. Once we learn that the ghost has been a victim of the villain, we begin to fear her more. Our sympathy for the ghost is, in a way, part of the reason why we fear her.
This is probably the standard template in films such as Aranmanai where a wronged girl turns into a ghost to avenge her death. The difference in Kannamoochi is that all the scares are psychological, not visual. For example, when a friend of the parent rubs the shoulders of a little girl, and lingers, we are afraid. When Priya walks into the villain's den where little girls are stuffed, frozen and kept for display in boxes like Barbie dolls, the orderliness of something so macabre is chilling.
It seems like everything in the writing was a set up for the big reveal about the nameless villain (Radhakrishnan, superb as the genteel and sophisticated paedophile). The actor makes the character accessible, but not likeable. We glimpse the mind of a paedophile and marvel at how similar it is to ours, but, at the same time, different. Take the scene where he is rocking on a red horse, watching Poorna drown. The dialogue "My love for your daughter is greater than your affection for her" is chilling, coming from a balding, 60-something man to the mother of a five-year-old girl. His monologue about how others can't behave decently is deliciously ironic. Even when he does something as commonplace as trim his nail, we are worried as to what it means. His effortless performance draws you in, deepening your sense of dread. A villain with self-awareness is not just bad, he is evil.
The villain's destruction (yes, it feels like destruction) is both psychologically and aesthetically satisfying, without evoking triumphalism. This conclusion, though, is not approached logically. Instead, a series of vignettes nominally push the narrative forward. It is as if GR Aadithya chose to do away with causes and present only the effects. He gets away with this too, to an extent, because the horror of paedophilia and the ever-lurking ghost distract us.
When the (mostly stilted) dialogues are being delivered, there is no background score. This works, especially in a horror-thriller. But often, the dialogue delivery is amateurish. When Priya's husband tells her that he's been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he sounds like he's sharing the latest cricket score with her. At other times, Sundaramurthy KS's score is appropriately sweet (and sounds like parts of Sillu Karupatti). When it's time to scare, he takes a leaf out of Ghibran's Ratsasan playbook and creates eerie, atmospheric sounds.
At first, the supernatural angle does seem like a force fit. Why couldn't this have been a straightforward thriller without the ghost of an 11-year-old child guiding Priya? Perhaps, it allowed the makers to focus on the crime, and avoid spending time establishing morality. By having the victim haunt the villain through Priya, the moral position of the makers is swiftly established, allowing them to focus on the thriller. Whatever the explanation, the horror angle does seem like it was tacked on as an afterthought, even though it is the most interesting aspect of the story.