The last film that K.V.Anand served as cinematographer for was 2004's Chellame, a critical and commercial hit. Understandably, Anand has adopted a similar formula for Kanaa Kanden, his debut as director. So we geta story about a young couple whose happiness is threatened by a bad guy, packaged with good cinematography, nice music and comedy. Fortunately, Anand has learnt his lesson well and the result is an entertaining romantic thriller. I do have a few complaints but it is definitely a good first effort from Anand.
Bhaskar(Srikanth) and Archana(Gopika), who have been best friends since childhood, finally manage to reveal their feelings for each other after 10 long years. Bhaskar is a post-graduate whose projecton the inexpensive desalination of seawater has been approved by the college. His dream is to hand over his project to the government so that it reaches the people but the government demands a working model, for which he is unable to find funding. Archana runs into Madan(Prithviraj), a senior during her college years and he agrees to fund Bhaskar's model. Bhaskar and Archana are initially elated but slowly discover Madan's true nature - he is a vicious loan shark who will go to any lengths to get his money
First things first. Kanaa Kanden works because of its villain. On the outside he is handsome, refined, well-dressed and overall, a good friend. But hidden inside the cultured exterior is a cruel, heartless man who has no qualms about squashing lives under his feet in his quest for money. We usually hear of blessings in disguise. Here's a curse in disguise!. He drives Srikanth and Gopika to the depths of misery but does so calmly and quietly with a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes. Among villains who roll their eyes, rant and rave in an effort to convey their villainous intentions, the villain here is a class apart. Full marks to Anand for the characterization of a villain we really hate passionately.
But Kanaa Kanden also has a hero and heroine who make it easy for us to root for them against the bad guy. Its always nice to see an idealistic hero and the fact that Srikanth here is idealistic about resolving a current, burning issue makes us warm up to him almost immediately. The technical mumbo-jumbo he throws out passes muster and doesn't sound too silly or ridiculous(though a scientist may be able to poke holes in his explanations). Gopika too comes across as smart and capable(like the way she scribbles in the blank portions of a contract, having been burnt earlier) though she does jump to a rather big decision a bit too quickly. The two make a cute couple and both the banter and the fights between them bring a newly-married couple before our eyes.
Kanaa Kanden can be split into three acts - the setup(i.e. the romance and the meeting withPrithviraj), Prithviraj harassing the couple and Srikanth striking back. Anand doesn't balance the second and third acts well enough. The second act ends up being too long while the third act, which is the crowd-pleasing one, is over too soon. We realise Prithviraj's character right before the intermission. So lingering for so long on his harassment of Srikanth and Gopika seems like overkill. On the other hand, Srikanth's revenge on Prithviraj is exciting since we were waiting for so long for Prithviraj to get his comeuppance(the sequence is also thrillingly picturized with Srikanth actually making use of his education and generates 2 genuinely suspenseful moments). Anand stretches it way too long and so the joy when it does happen is shortlived. But the climax is clever and quite short.
The film is classy fare for the most part but Anand inexplicably shows an inclination for the crude at many places. And it takes several forms. There's Vivek's inappropriate and completely tasteless comment on tsunami-hit Chennai. There's the dance by the skimpily-clad female at the bar at a completely wrong moment. There's the antics of the lead policewoman in the Chinna Chinna Sigarangal... song. The act by Prithviraj's henchman to draw out a hiding debtor in his house is disgusting but understandable and maybe even necessary, to highlight Prithviraj's ruthlessness. But then, was the lingering shot and the still really necessary, especially when intermission is usually snack time?!
Directors have for long used a technique where they show something shocking only to reveal later that it was a dream, product of imagination, etc. Unless used at the right place, it can end up irritating the viewer by being anticlimactic. Anand at one point does something similar but uses a fresh technique to surprise us momentarily before revealing what actually happened. It was just a couple of seconds but pointed to some nice ideas residing within this new director.
Srikanth fits the role of the young man with a lofty goal. Gopika looks homely and has acted quite intimately with Srikanth. She gains our sympathy in the second half. Prithviraj shares equal credit for the success of the villain's role here. His casual performance is sure to earn him laurels. Vivek is a pale shadow of his earlier self in a role that reminds one of his turn in Run. His one-liners, Rather than his 'interviews' with Jayalalitha or Karunanidhi, worked for me. He also attempts to make a few social observations in the interview with the politician. Chinna Chinna Sigarangal... and Kaalai Arumbi... have some nice locations and good cinematography but the picturization itself is rather pedestrian. Thaai Sollum... plays well in the background.