Kanam Movie Review: A cathartic film with a big idea and a bigger heart
Debut director Shree Karthick has designed a film that might seem like a conversation with time but is a deeply introspective piece, which urges us to make peace with our decisions
Time heals… But before we can get to the healing part, there are multiple stages that we all undergo. It is in one of these stages that filmmaker Shree Karthick decided to make his debut film, Kanam, which is an extension of his personal suffering, but not without the finesse of a well-made multi-genre film. It is interesting how Tamil cinema marries the sci-fi space with its quintessential masala tropes. We don't often see pure genre films in Tamil, and Kanam is no different, but it isn't a problem because the makers never intend to intellectualise this concept.
Cast: Sharwanand, Amala, Sathish, Ramesh Thilak
Director: Shree Karthick
Kanam begins with a car accident, which has an interesting subversion. Right from this moment, Shree Karthick and team cleverly inject small doses of ingenuity into time-tested cliches that never once feel outdated. The film is about Aadhi (Sharwanand), who loses his mother (Amala Akkineni) at a very young age, and finds solace in music. However, his stage fright never allows him to break into the big leagues. His closest friends Kathir (Sathish) and Pandi (Ramesh Thilak), too have their own emotional baggage. The former is unable to find a partner to marry, and the latter has an inferiority complex connected to his unfinished school education and present profession as a real estate broker.
Shree Karthick uses one of the songs from Jakes Bejoy's brilliant soundtrack to establish the characters of the three friends and their lives. Although, Aadhi's story carries more emotional heft than the others, full points to the makers for giving the usually neglected 'hero's friends' a fulfilling personal character arc. Throw in Nasser, his eclectic time machine, and we are in for a ride riddled with a bunch of existential questions that are treated rather lightly.
It is imperative that a time-travel film has to follow the rules ascertained in that world. Kanam too has a set of simple rules for a simple sci-fi concept. However, it is so simple that even when Nasser explains time travel to the trio, there is hardly any resistance from them. They aren't really bothered about the ramifications of time travel, and this nonchalance is actually disconcerting. How can someone not stop and ask questions when the idea of time travel is put forth? This lack of wonderment is detrimental to the narrative, which replaces scientific jargon with sentimental dialogues. But, a lot of these missteps, including the rules of the world not really being followed to a T, are overshadowed by the universality of the sentiments, and the performances of the lead cast.
Despite limited screentime, Amala, who is just known as 'Amma', is the soul of the film. She is the archetype of a doting mother, and it is interesting how she is not given a particular name. She could be anybody's amma, and that is the universality that Shree Karthick wants Kanam to cater to. The three kids — Jay, Hitesh and Nithya — playing the younger versions of Sharwanand, Sathish, and Ramesh Thilak are very sincere in their roles and raise the standards high enough to ensure it isn't a walk in the park for their adult versions. Ramesh stands out with his earnestness and establishes his credentials as an actor who can be given a full-fledged role. Ritu Varma is given a role with very limited scope, but she makes the best of it. Also, points to the writing for giving Ravi Raghavendra, who plays Ravichandran, the father of Aadhi, a solid character arc. He has a penchant for keeping things clean, and knowing the antecedents of this habit is one of the many emotional highs of Kanam. While the central conflict heavily works in favour of the film, it is these nifty side touches that warm the heart a bit more. In fact, the reason for Nasser to go back in time, and the ambiguity existing in his life is a fascinating addition to Kanam that might seem a largely simple amma-sentiment film.
Just like how Shree Karthick’s debut film is a way of catharsis for the young filmmaker, this feeling is extended to the audience too. Watching Kanam, one gets transported to the wondrous yet taxing world of ‘What Ifs’. We have all once walked through these hallows to find answers to questions we wish we never had. Throughout all time-travel films, it has always been about one single want of the protagonist, which more often than not revolves around love… and regret, in any form. Shree Karthick and team give us a bunch of relatable characters that connect with us on such a deep level that we begin to envision ourselves as them. In fact, even during the runtime of the film, whenever I found time from wiping my tears or sporting a wide smile, I was traversing multiple timelines in my head. However, there is also the fear that too much is left to chance, and we aren’t sure if a course correction in our past is the best way forward. All we have is the present, and Shree Karthick has designed a film that might seem like a conversation with time but is a deeply introspective piece, which urges us to make peace with our decisions and where life has brought us. We know time heals… and films like Kanam remind us that art heals too.