Director: Rajasekar Duraisamy
Cast: Anandhi, Rohit Saraf, Pratap Pothen, Azhagam Perumal
Kamali From Nadukkaveri is a film in search of its genre. On the surface, it is an underdog story of how Kamali (Anandhi, last seen in Live Telecast), gets into IIT and becomes the pride of Nadukkaveri, all while being a stock Tamil film loosu ponnu throughout the film. She is always confused, happy, and has the kind of luck that helps her succeed immediately at everything she does. The film also talks about her relationships with her father (Azhagam Perumal), Professor Arivudainambi (Pratap Pothen), and Ashwin Anand (Rohit Saraf), a senior in college for whom she has a wavering infatuation. Neither of the two stories is convincing.
The underdog story is unbelievable because we never see how Kamali transforms from a happy-to-lucky girl to an IITian. When Kamali asks Arivudainambi to teach her, at first he refuses. Just as Kamali is leaving, she sees a chessboard with a game in progress and starts playing. The professor is impressed after Kamali defeats him in what clearly looks like an amateurish game. But we don’t feel Kamali’s triumph because everything feels so convenient. We had no idea that both Kamali and the professor had an interest in chess. We had no idea that Kamali is such a strong player. Everything feels arbitrary because we don’t feel the nail-biting expectation before the victory. One day we see Kamali playing with ferns, not knowing what to do with life, and the next day we see her beating a professor at chess.
Instead of talking about Kamali’s journey in IIT (after she gets into it) or her relationships, we get a solid 15-minute episode featuring what seems to be raw and unedited footage of a quiz competition depicted in excruciating detail. The quiz master spends three minutes explaining in English the rules of a three-round quiz programme, taking an entire minute to explain the special rules of the third round. We are shown the entire quiz, with no questions edited out. In contrast, to show Kamali’s transformation into a brilliant student, all we get is a few shots of her sitting with her books or typing on her laptop.
The depiction of Kamali’s relationship with Arivudainambi is marred by the vague and inconsistent writing. Arivudainambi’s contribution to the underdog story is critical, because he is Kamali’s only hope to get into IIT. But how he transforms Kamali is laughable. He gives her some advice about concentration, understanding and practice, and leaves it at that. It magically transforms her into an IITan. When Kamali goes to IIT, Arivudainambi removes all his degrees from the wall and hangs up Kamali’s picture instead.
But, Arivudainambi is not that kind of a man from what we’ve been shown so far. Why not show her overhearing him talking about her hard work to other students or something more consistent with his personality? Other characters in the film hit similar false notes and don’t change organically. They just flip to a different state of mind when the story requires it. It’s as if they exist solely to make Kamali inspiring. And, precisely for that reason, it doesn’t work.