Cast: Udhayanadhi Stalin, Tamannaah Bhatia, Vadivukkarasi
Director: Seenu Ramasamy
In Seenu Ramasamy’s Kanne Kalaimaane, we’re constantly reminded of how straightforward the two lead characters are. Kamalakannan (an earnest Udhayanidhi Stalin) is a landed farmer, who despite the opportunities at his disposal, chose to study agriculture. He compares land to a mother and is against the use of chemical fertilizers, choosing instead to supply farmers with his own vermicompost.
Bharathi (Tammannaah, whose constant pauses need a bit of getting used to), is the newly-appointed manager at the local government bank, in charge of issuing and reclaiming loans. She too is introduced to us as being straightforward, which is why she cannot keep her transferable government job for too long. So when she takes over her new role, she can’t tolerate the nine unpaid loans issued to Kamalakannan. Questions and arguments follow before she realizes that she has met someone whose righteousness is just like hers. He has taken all those loans for others because people work harder to repay a loan rather than when they’re just given the money. In his own words, he’s teaching them how to fish instead of giving them away for free. An impressed Bharathi looks at him very differently from then on. “I see you wearing a kurta, roaming around helping so many people. Are you a communist?” she asks him with a smile. In another kind of movie, this would have been the pick-up line. But in Kanne Kalaimaane everything is subdued, everything is mature. It feels like how adults fall in love.
There’s no need for any wooing (or stalking) either. It’s so charming to see a Tamil film hero just walk up and ask for the heroine’s number. Even their first “date”, to his alumni meet, is so casual. When it’s time to finally get serious, it’s not a meeting where they finally say I LOVE YOU. It’s to just iron out the details of their future. And when they discuss the possibility of their parents disapproving of their marriage, Bharathi says, “So what? We’ll just leave it at that and remain good friends.” That’s all.
But when the parents do meet, things don’t really go according to plan. It is Kamalakannan’s grandmother who disapproves after veiled questions that hint at the girl’s caste, her profession and wealth. Kamalakannan, being who he is, doesn’t even object. All he can do is go on a hunger strike.
The issue is soon resolved and the marriage is discussed. Bharathi speaks to his father and explains how the wedding will take place. “50-50”, she says, explaining how the costs will get divided. But this “50-50” extends to their life even after marriage. Duties around the house are divided too and we witness the rare sight of a Tamil film hero comfortably doing the laundry as his busy wife rides away to work. Within the film’s rural setting, their relationship feels revolutionary.
But that quality alone doesn’t keep the film interesting for too long. The two characters have a way of saying exactly what they seem to be thinking. For instance, when Kamalakannan compliments Bharathi’s saree, she explains how the saree is from Co-optex, why she bought it and how it supports weavers of the State. Earlier, when a medical student requires a loan to pursue her studies, she meets Kamalakannan and they both start discussing the problems with the NEET exam and how tough it is for a girl from Tamil Nadu to crack it. After a point, the film feels a lot like a social awareness conference.
Which would still have been fine had the central conflict been more interesting. What follows is just another tale of how the grandmother, being the sign of culture and tradition, opposes a very modern relationship. It’s the kind of film where no one is bad, no one is wrong, leaving us with very little drama. But when the film finally takes a turn (cleverly justifying its title), the tonal shift is a bit too drastic to really have any effect. Like previous Seenu Ramasamy films, this too has a lot, in fact too much to say. If only he had developed a moving enough way to say it.