Featuring one of A.R. Rahman’s most outstanding songs (the title track), this is a generally solid work from Mani Ratnam about the complicated dynamics of family, with parts of it set against the context of Sri Lankan militancy.
Cast: Madhavan, Simran, Prakash Raj, Nandita Das, Keerthana Parthiepan
Plot: At the age of nine, Amudha learns that she is an adopted child. Armed with a few bare facts, she desperately searches for her biological mother in war-ridden zones of Sri Lanka.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto); Won Best Feature Film in Tamil, Best Child Actor, Best Editing, Best Audiography, Best Music Direction, Best Lyrics (National Film Awards India)
Source: AP International
Subject Matter: Moderate – Adoption; Family Dynamics
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
My second Mani Ratnam film, after the unforgettable Bombay (1995), Kannathil Muthamittal (or ‘A Peck on the Cheek’) is a generally solid work from one of contemporary Indian cinema’s preeminent directors.
While it doesn’t have the vigour and urgency of Bombay, Kannathil boasts a story that deals with the complicated dynamics of family.
A young girl is told the truth of her birth when she turns nine—that her current mother and father aren’t her biological parents—lighting a fuse in the narrative that first begins as a gentle, warm-spirited affair.
While the theme of adoption poses plenty of questions about parent-child relationships that aren’t biological, Ratnam isn’t content with delivering a story that just centers entirely on that.
“We decided to tell her the truth on her ninth birthday.”
He sets the story (at least a significant part of the latter half of Kannathil) against the context of Sri Lankan militancy, namely the Tamil Tigers who were fighting for freedom (that’s what I remembered from my Social Studies classes in secondary school).
While the armed conflict isn’t as integral to Kannathil as the religiously-charged riots were to Bombay, Ratnam does feature several intense scenes of violence.
However, Kannathil always returns to its more sentimentalist underpinnings, none more explicit than its emotion-laden climax, which may be overly melodramatic to some.
Kannathil is a good place to start if you are new to more mainstream Tamil cinema. It also features a title track (both male and female versions) that is one of A.R. Rahman’s most outstanding songs.