Director: Mu Maran
Cast: Udhayanidhi Stalin, Bhumika Chawla, Aathmika, Prasanna
The strength of Mu Maran’s Kannai Nambathey lies in its clear understanding of its world and protagonists. So, even when the film shows its leading men transforming from ordinary people into heroic fighters who are quite efficient at handling guns and taking down enemies, it ensures that they are flawed humans who occasionally mess up.
The film’s title, Kannai Nambathey, is inspired by a famous song of the same name from MGR’s Ninaithadhai Mudippavan (1975). The meaning translates to ‘don’t believe your eyes’. Although the title is apt as its naive protagonist Arun (Udhayanidhi Stalin) trusts everyone and believes whatever he sees (only to later get betrayed), the film could have very well been titled Iravukku Aayiram Kangal (IAK) Part 2 — IAK is Maran’s debut film — which literally translates to ‘the night has many eyes’.
Like his debut film, Maran builds his sophomore directorial around an ordinary man who does the unthinkable when he inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a murder case. With many scenes set up at night time, what pushes the story forward is a series of random people secretly recording the acts of the protagonists trying to cover up their blunders (hinting that there are many eyes watching them in the dark).
On a rainy night, Arun helps a woman reach home safely. In return, she lends him her car and asks to give it back the next day. However, the next morning, Arun finds her dead, locked up in the boot of her car. While he insists on going to the police, Somu (Prasanna), his new roommate, warns him of the consequences, and the two scramble to find evidence and get rid of the body.
As and when they try to cover up their tracks, they keep making one more mistake, leaving behind a new clue. Apart from adding value to the story, what this does is make way for several amusing subplots. For instance, when Arun and Somu try to throw the body from a bridge, the director gives it a Panchathantiram-esque treatment, leaving audiences in splits.
That said, the film does very little to steer clear of predictability. In addition, the film lets us in on a crucial motive early on in the film, even if the characters learn of it only towards the end. This chips away at the genre’s edge-of-the-seat effect. Almost making up for it, the makers load the pre-climactic sequence with several twists, but it comes off as overloaded.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are many eyes watching Arun and Somu. As a result, we get a chain of wonderful sequences with different suspects blackmailing each other. Prasanna’s Somu is almost the calm to Udhayanidhi’s storm in the film, and their scenes are some of the best written bits.
However, for a film that focuses so much on CCTV videos as evidence, logic takes a back seat as most CCTVs remain unchecked — suspects roam freely in a dead woman’s car (with a body for a whole day) and the police are hardly clued in on most occasions. Yet what drives you to overlook such flaws, besides a mostly engaging screenplay, is Jalandhar Vasan’s camera that always films from a distance — peeping through windows, holes in walls or from the insides of another car — underscoring the addage that “someone else is always watching.”