December 21, 2018
One of my favourite moments in Kanaa is the breakdown scene where Murugesan (Sathyaraj) desperately tries to hold back tears during a telephone conversation with his daughter Kausalya (Aishwarya Rajesh), who is miles away for an international cricket match, representing India.
Murugesan is a struggling farmer and a cricket fanatic, who wants to see his daughter win the World Cup. He doesn’t well up when his father passes away, but breaks into tears when India loses a cricket match.
He is, in fact, the ideal father that any girl would love to have. He defends his daughter in her absence, and does everything possible to make her happy. Her dreams are his. His dreams are hers. When Kausalya says she failed in her final exams, he doesn’t yell at her. Instead he says, “Indha pass fail ellaam sambadhikkaravangalukku dhaan… saadhikkaravangalukku illa.”
She comes from a place that considers ambition as a dirty word for women. Naturally, you root for Kausalya and want her to achieve her dreams.
Kanaa explores various themes including gender inequality, the ethnic and regional prejudice besides sexism that revolves around women’s cricket. What works wonderfully is the writing. There is humour and there are also several poignant father-daughter emotions all through. A big thumbs-up to Aishwarya Rajesh, who has convincingly pulled off Kausalya.
In particular, I quite liked the scene where Sathyaraj metamorphoses from a farmer into an advocate of women’s rights. He brings Murugesan to life on screen.
The first half takes its time to build-up, predictably. Murali Krishna (Darshan) pursues Kausalya, but she calls him ‘anna’, and you know where this goes. The romance angle could have been stronger, but hey, I get it — women-centric film and all that.
Kanaa touches upon the plight of farmers, the difficulty to repay loans, the rising tide of suicides among them, and how they are forced to bear the increasing burden of uncertainty. However, Arunraja Kamaraj achieves a fine sense of balance in narrating parallel stories without one overshadowing the other. For a debut filmmaker, he has done a great job.
In the second half, you see Sivakarthikeyan making his entry into Kanaa as Nelson Dilipkumar, a cricket coach. He is surprisingly subtle and does what’s required for the role. I think for the first time he has attempted something different without any of his trademark quirks. He is inspiring, canny and profoundly hopeful. You can’t help but think of Shah Rukh Khan’s role in Chak De India here. Though the team resist him at first, eventually, they realise only he can make them forget their differences and play as a team for the country. Kanaa makes for an entertaining watch but you can’t deny it’s cliched.
The film has a terrific supporting cast. Even if they have got only a few lines to speak, they seem important to the narrative. There is an authenticity to these characters. You care for them. You feel for them. You are curious to know more about them.
The final scenes are pretty much what exactly you expect them to be, though your mind draws comparisons between this film, Lagaan and Iqbal. Overall, Arunraja Kamaraj has managed to touch the right chord of the audience with a neat screenplay and timely dialogues including ‘Indha ulagam jeichruvenu sonna kekaadhu… Aana jeichavan sonna kekkum’, ‘Aasai patta mattum podhadhu, adam pidikka theriyanum’, among others.
Even if you are not a fan of cricket, you will enjoy Kanaa as it has all the typical elements of a good sports drama in place.