Kandukondain Kandukondain

Kandukondain... bearly noticed!

Stars: Mammooty, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Ajeethkumar, Abbas, Srividya, Shamli, Manivannan
Music: A.R.Rahman
Director: Rajeev Menon
Released: May 5, 2000
Reviewer: Sandya Krishna
Rating: 2 1/2 stars

One of the common confusions we have is differentiating between a film being incoherent and being totally self-confident. Unfortunately both of these qualities contribute largely to the end result of 'ruin, mayhem and chaos' to the screenplay.  While many critics and even the masses wrote off Minsaara Kanavu as an incoherent film, which only due to its good fortune limped its way to the box office bronze medal, Kandukondain might be a different story.  Rajeev Menon's new film assumes and presents itself as being utterly self-confident of its content and screenplay, so much so that we can feel the film ripping apart at its seams, about a half an hour into its initial narration.  Yet Kandukondain seems to have its audience in its grip for a reason or two: impeccable acting by Mammooty, Tabu & Ajeethkumar (in portions), a true to the heart climax (slipping away from the masala formula) and A.R.Rahman working long hours to perfect some tunes which will stay in memory, at least for a short while.   Probably the great acting, climax and music belongs in some other interesting, first-rate celluloid creation, but lucky for Rajeev Menon, are present to salvage this film.

Ajeethkumar, Abbas, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai & MammootyKandukondain regurgitates the baby formula of olden-day Bheem Singh films, where the family loses wealth; relocates to the city and makes a living with the skills they have.  It is not so much the story, but rather the screenplay and characterizations that fail to weather the storm in the first half.  Each of the characters is so hell-bent on beating the odds and achieving their dreams that they essentially start pounding on the heart of the film to resuscitate it.  Aishwarya (despite the exquisite jewelry & good costumes by Nalini Sriram) flutters into her land of beautiful Bharathiyar poetry, 'knight in shining armor' and such..., Tabu (despite her wrinkles) shoulders the rather heavy burden of the stringent, straight-laced older sis, harboring a variety of emotions without letting out too much at any given time..., Srividya (despite her years of acting experience) readily breaks into tears and whines for a living...,  Ajeethkumar has a multi-faceted role where he struggles to make the world believe in him and to build a worthy life for himself & Tabu as a successful film director (despite the role's limited screen time, he shines in a few instances!)..., Mammooty's character (despite this unfortunate film) earns him laurels for its down-to-earth, likable and human qualities that he demonstrates as a war veteran caught between present desires and a brutal past... The very same characters, given a good time and place, could have made for a refreshing viewing and feeling experience, but fail to gel together because they gradually become bigger than the shoes they fill.

Unlike the Bheem Singh formula, where the entire family is essentially concerned with economic stability after the drastic move to the city, only Tabu and Srividya are truly pre-occupied with saving 'house.'  Tabu heads straight to the reception desk, Srividya to the vaazhappu vadai hotel, while Aishwarya mopes about broken dreams, wasted poetry and the false 'love' alarm with Abbas blaring loud and clear!  Meanwhile, Ajeeth clenches his teeth at commercial old-timer cinema, makes gossip headlines with the stunt actress Nandini (shabbily played by Pooja Batra) and on occasion, remembers that Tabu is still waiting for him.  Once again, Mammooty arrives at the right moment to build faith, love and trust within this family, striking the right cords brilliantly with the audience as well.  After all, what can we expect from Abbas who delivered the brilliant words, "What a man!" at Rajini in Padaiyappa, to achieve in this markedly confused film?  Indeed, he succeeds in making us believe that he never was in love with Aishwarya to begin with (exactly the opposite of what we were supposed to walk away with!).

And yet, there are delightful moments worth remembering in Kandukondain too:  The misunderstanding between Ajeethkumar, Tabu and Srividya in the opening introduction scene between the three; the producer who takes Ajeeth on a tour of his 'old-timer' technical crew out to botch Ajeeth's first venture, Vaegam; Manivannan desperately giving Mammooty 'pick-up' lines to win Aishwarya over; a very low-key interesting cinema set picturization of Smai-yai yaiyee yai..; a tear-jerking moment where Tabu hangs onto a curtain for dear life as she divulges to Aishwarya, her false feelings of true love for Ajeeth after she realizes that he has also labeled her an 'adhishta kattai' and finally, a neatly tailored scene where Aishwarya and Mammooty beautifully deliver the trials and tribulations of 'love lost and new found relationships.'  (The fact that Aishwarya & Mammooty both stand in the same spot throughout the climax watching the happenings between Ajeeth and Tabu with interest, without interrupting the situation, also builds upto the conclusion well!).

Minsaara Kanavu might have been incoherent, but it provided overall visual & musical brilliance: Ravi K. Chandran's eye-popping cinematography, aesthetic dance choreography by Prabhudeva and company, bubbly and refreshing Kajol and a lively, romantic score by A.R.Rahman.  Kandukondain fails where Minsaara Kanavu won hands down, as neither Ravi K. Chandran, choreographer Raju Sundaram nor A.R.Rahman (despite catchy tunes in Sandhana Thendralai and Kanna moochi yEnnaadaa?) capture the same high notes again.  Additionally, it appears a little ridiculous for Aishwarya to lip sync Kanna moochi yEnnaada en kanna at Ajeethkumar, when he is actually Tabu's kanna in the film.  Can logic disappear when poetry and song picturization take precedence?  Rajeev Menon-ukke veLicham! 

In a time where mindless blood baths, gun fights, pointless foreign locale song picturizations and tasteless dialogues achieve screen time, Rajeev Menon's clean family film is indeed a welcome change.  Whether Kandukondain Kandukondain deserves critical acclaim, praise and eventual box office success is left to the discretion of the viewer.  Only time will tell!

Sandya Krishna

Original Photograph (Kandukondain Kandukondain): Thanks to http://www.kandukondain.com