Kurangu Pedal Movie Review: A sweet nostalgia trip that takes the rocky road down

Kurangu Pedal Movie Review: A sweet nostalgia trip that takes the rocky road down

The father-son bond in Kurangu Pedal forms the core of the tale, but with Kaali Venkat’s limited screen time, their relationship isn’t explored to the fullest
Kurangu Pedal(2.5 / 5)

Nostalgia is like instant serotonin to the brain. It is one of those buttons that once pressed, can take us to the greener past, and bring bitter-sweet moments to the fore. It humbles you, makes you human and allows you to cherish life. This is probably why director Kamalakannan begins Kurangu Pedal with a disclaimer that the film would depict what summer vacations meant to the kids in the 1980s, to a theatre full of people who breathe hustle culture every day.

Director: Kamalakannan

Cast: Kaali Venkat, Santhosh Velumurugan, VR Ragavan, M Gnanasekar, Rathish, Sai Ganesh, Prasanna Balachander, Jenson Diwakar

Kurangu Pedal revolves around Mariappan’s (Santhosh Velmurugan) desire to ride a bicycle. He huffs and puffs, struggling to learn it during his summer vacation and win the heart of his father Kandhasamy (Kaali Venkat). What initially starts as a competition between his friends, grows into an effort to forge his own identity and erase the identity his father is associated with.

The film doesn’t miss an opportunity to showcase long-forgotten sports of the era, including hopscotch, marbles, rolling tyres, and other activities like eating ice apples and jumping into every kind of water body, large or small. The ‘Kondattam’ song from Ghibran’s composition and the visuals unfolding on-screen take one back to ‘Veyilodu Vilayadi’ from Veyil.

Cinematographer SuMee Baskaran takes his camera through picture-perfect locations in Salem’s Katheri village, depicting lakes, rocky roads, busy markets and even hilltop temples. In many ways, even the bicycle bears witness to events that Mariappan goes through. A crucial scene that explains why Mariappan starts learning to ride a bicycle is shown from the point of view of the cycle itself — from in between the cycle spokes to the gaps where Mari learns to ‘kurangu’ pedal.

There are other such brilliant touches as well. The kids learn to ride a bicycle after renting it on a per-hour basis. They pool in money, paisa by paisa (Mind you, this is eight annas, which is precisely 50 paisa) and get it from a local shop. It serves as a reminder of the smaller joys of saving money that don’t come from scanning a QR code. The owner of the bicycle store is fondly called Military (Prasanna Balachandran). He comes with an intimidating background and gets into verbal arguments with an alcoholic (Jenson Diwaker), which brings out some organic laughter in the room. It is also interesting how a traumatising scene is shown as a simple street play and a simple conflict is resolved with a mere poppins candy. All these moments show the earnest efforts of the director to write stories that are distinctly close to his heart.  But the screenplay is stretched far beyond its borders that makes it difficult to savour some of these other moments.

The father-son bond in Kurangu Pedal forms the core of the tale, but with Kaali Venkat’s limited screen time, their relationship isn’t explored to the fullest. The actor is terrific as Kandhasamy, a strict, yet doting father who cares for his family. But the film doesn’t allow his restrained performance to shine through. On top of that, the story demands a better character study of Kandhasamy and the emotional arc he goes through with his son. Instead, what you get is a mixed bag of stories from a summer in the 80s where people and seasons change in a moment. For instance, there are two confrontational moments towards the end of the film. As much as both of them are tastefully done, the confrontation itself doesn't hold itself up and as a result, it weighs down the emotional value of the moment.

Kurangu Pedal relies too much on the nostalgia factor and provides us with heartwarming blast-from-the-past moments rather than focussing on interpersonal relationships. Like Mariappan’s much older sister who lives away from them after getting married. She loves him dearly, but we never get enough scenes between them.

Kurangu Pedal is one of those rare self-aware films that knows too well what its strengths are despite its predictable storyline. The film might look like it is written for kids but is also for adults who are grappling to care for their inner child. In the end, the heartening story needed a tighter screenplay and a story that encompasses a broader spectrum of issues to make a wholesome entertainer.

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