Ka Pae Ranasingam Movie Review: Aishwarya Rajesh shines in a film that doesn’t belong to her
The film’s writing doesn’t really delve deep — it feels neither authentic nor organic
In an interview before the release, Aishwarya Rajesh was asked why the film is named Ka Pae Ranasingam, and she replied that though the film revolves around Ariyanachi (her character), the soul of the film belongs to Ranasingam (Vijay Sethupathi). When you watch the film, you can see the conflict in the narrative. Ka Pae Ranasingam is essentially Ariyanachi’s story but the film focuses more on establishing who Ransingam is. Ka Pae Ranasingam wobbles due to this tug of war and we get a three-hour film that wanders a lot before coming to the point.
Cast: Aishwarya Rajesh, Vijay Sethupathi, Rangaraj Pandey, Bhavani Sre
Streaming on: Zeeplex
The story begins with Ariyanachi learning about the death of her revolutionary husband Ransingam at the ear-piercing ceremony of their daughter. And the film cuts to a flashback. But what essentially should have been a song or a brief chapter ends up taking a massive chunk of the runtime. We get to know about Ranasingam’s talent in finding water, his inclination towards public work, and protests. There’s also a cute love story between Ranasingam and Ariyanachi.
There’s plenty to unpack in terms of themes as well. We have the migrant crisis, the unemployment scene, capitalism, the apathy of the bureaucracy, and the abuse of power. A lot of this should have been background information, instead of being part of the main narrative and shown in real-time. The writing, though well-intentioned, is painfully superficial in pointing out the cruelty of bureaucratic red tape. Despite Ghibran’s pummelling background score, the ideas don’t transform into affecting cinema.
The film’s writing doesn’t really delve deep — it feels neither authentic nor organic. Despite the three-hour span, you don’t really get a grip on the characters beyond the obvious. Take Rangaraj Pandey, who plays the collector, for example. I found myself asking, ‘Neenga nallavara kettavara?’. The film also reminded me of a journalism lesson: don't try to fit in all you have, just because you have it. Had the makers followed this, half of Ka Pae Ranasingam would have stayed at the edit table. Several scenes merely hang around as punchlines. Just a bunch of well-intended messages do not make for interesting cinema. There’s also a lot of convenience in the writing (Ariyanachi magically finds someone to help in every city) and not enough inherent emotion. The perfunctory nature of the film's craft doesn’t help either. Add sound consistencies and Zeeplex’s bug-infested interface, and the entire experience becomes an exercise in patience for the viewer.
However, Aishwarya’s performance shines through all this. Ariyanachi is an interesting mix of boldness, humour, wit, and strength. I especially loved the plucky Ariyanachi before she becomes the wife of Ransingam; her tongue-in-cheek conversations with Ranasingam are quite cute. It is tough to play a character who is one-dimensional, but the confidence Aishwarya brings is charming. The film should have been Ariyanachi and Aishwarya’s. Instead, it belongs to Ranasingam and Vijay Sethupathi, who could have sleep-walked through this role (I suspect he did, especially in the fight sequences).
The film suffers mainly because it refuses to recognise Ariyanachi as the protagonist: we needed to feel and understand how much her husband's last rites mattered to her. Ka Pae Ranasingam is content to build-up a man who is already dead. It is also an example of how the perspective around women-centric cinema is so myopic. We need to understand that it goes beyond having a woman protagonist: it is about the lens we use to register them, their emotions, and complexities. In the film, the prime minister (who looks uncannily like Narendra Modi) calls Ariyanachi, ‘India’s daughter’. It is common for the stories about India’s daughters to be maimed and manipulated by men. This film is no exception.