Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal movie review: A clever film that subverts expectations from start to finish
By and large, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is a film that’s a lot of twisted fun while also putting out some useful messages
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is a con job of a film, and I mean this only as a compliment. If good cinema were a satisfying form of deception, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is among its better examples. From the film’s alarmingly mundane beginning to its hilarious twist at the end concerning a police officer, this film’s singular objective is to be a step ahead of you. And I loved that this is thematically in keeping with what its main characters do for a living. The film takes a while to warm up, and while you are waiting for this to happen, it’s almost frightfully blasé. A typical hero type (Siddharth, played by Dulquer) and a hero-friend type (Kaallis, played by Rakshan) have the film commencing with a pool party song. Soon, Siddharth, by chance, meets a heroine type (Meera, played by Ritu Varma), as she, perhaps having just watched Anniyan, begins delivering a moral lecture to a shopkeeper about the value of a single rupee. Needless to say, Siddharth, who’s gawking at her as Suriya watches Asin save children from a puddle in Ghajini, falls in love. By around this time, I was positively petrified. What about this film had convinced Dulquer to return to Tamil cinema? Unknown to me, of course, director Desingh Periyasamy had me exactly where he wanted—right in the centre of the film’s crosshairs. By the time the title flashes at the interval, you realise its true significance. I was glad for a terrific twist, but I was gladder still that Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal was far from the sort of film I thought it was shaping itself to be at the beginning.
Cast: Dulquer, Ritu Varma, Rakshan, Niranjani, Gautham Menon
Director: Desingh Periyasamy
Producer: Anto Joseph Film Company, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Though the film begins with a short animation to establish that this is Dulquer’s 25th film, this is hardly a film in love with its hero. To the actor’s credit, he seems secure in his reluctance to take singular control over the material. This means that all four main characters, Siddharth, Kaallis, Meera, and Shreya (Niranjani Ahathian) are allowed time and space to impose themselves on the material. There’s a lovely little scene in which Kaallis takes pride in being a loyal sidekick of Siddharth, and somehow, this has the effect of making him less so. Kaallis also gets the best love scene in the film. A goofy comic presence who’s seemingly unemotional, he’s forced into a period of separation from Shreya. In a scene which is deep without striving too hard to be, he observes that he had somehow become accustomed to being dominated by her, that he’s now missing her presence. Among heroes who profess their love with total conviction, it’s refreshing when, amid all this fragility, he tentatively offers, “Love panniten pola?” While on Kaallis, be also sure to observe his selection of amusing t-shirts, which generally indicate his mood. During a particularly sad moment, his shirt reads, “Singatha saachitaangale.”
It’s a film constantly winning battles with our expectations. It does this first on the subject of the morality of the lead male characters, and later, concerning the morality of the female characters. Eventually, it does this even with the policeman character (I guess I should say ‘cop’, given it’s played by Gautham Menon). While many films, in trying to capitalise on GVM’s popularity, have failed to integrate him (or his voice) well, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal utilises the actor in him beautifully, first as a no-nonsense Deputy Commissioner, and later, as… well, I won’t spoil that for you. This film also reminded me of a film like Catch Me If You Can, with a serious cop being in pursuit of some impish criminals who are a step ahead all the time. I also like the comfort with which this film shows sophisticated crimes like hacking and fingerprint duplication—and why, even how something as innocent as WhatsApp Web can be potent in the wrong hands.
A problem for me is how the criminals in this film don’t get their due. Sure, this too is a subversion of your expectation, yes, but at what cost? What’s the takeaway? That if you are clever enough, you can have a great career as a con artist? The director does try to soften the blow by offering some justifications for why these characters are the way they are. Siddharth has taken to this life, on account of his education degree—engineering, what else—failing him. But when his friend responds to his suggestion that they return to the right side of the law with, “Aiyyo, verkume?”, it’s funny but it also exposes them for who they are. The justification for the women is a little less problematic, given that they are constantly objectified and their strategy is to try and weaponise it. Director Desingh also, without labouring, points to the lack of a functional family for all of these characters. Siddharth comes from a broken family, Kaallis’ dad doesn’t care about him, and the women meanwhile are orphans. And yet, you are always left with the uncomfortable truth that the bad people in this film are not problematised enough.
Another problem with the film concerns Meera’s appearance. So long as she’s a good woman, she’s wearing what our society says ‘good women’ wear. She’s sporting a bindi, her hair is neatly braided, she’s wearing traditional Indian clothes… But soon as her character steps out of that zone, she’s only shown to be wearing Western wear... because that’s how female criminals are typically dressed? It plays to the common vilification of women who wear such clothes, and I wished that this film continued to show Meera wearing what she originally does. I suppose though that in his defence, the director could argue that she perhaps does that to capitalise on Siddharth’s (and by extension, many men’s) flawed notions of what constitutes a ‘good woman’, but I still think it would be more useful to depict grey shades in a woman wearing ‘good clothes’. This is a film that makes no bones about the other woman, Shreya, riding a Bullet, and while I liked it for that, I do think that towards the end, as both couples are shown riding away in bikes, it missed a chance to have Shreya riding one of them. If I had to pick on a couple of other niggles, I’d say that a running background theme seems too awfully similar to Passenger’s Let Her Go (I otherwise quite enjoyed the music of this film). And if we had one of those YouTube channels that point out goof-ups in cinema, they would pick up on that scene in which Kaallis is shown playing a video game, but his controller isn’t switched on.
Nevertheless, by and large, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal is a film that’s a lot of twisted fun while also putting out some useful messages. If a man claims to be earning a lot of money but seems to be doing hardly any work, be suspicious. If you meet a strange woman and tell her immediately that you’re in love with her, and she reciprocates right away, be suspicious. Imagine then the poetic irony of casting Gautham Menon in this film, that master of love stories in which the hero falls for the girl soon as he spots her. Walking out, I felt quite a bit of love for how the filmmaker has sportingly agreed to parody himself in this film. And for how debutant director Desingh Periyasamy managed to create such explosive entertainment out of the scene… and the film as a whole.