Kadal is not about the ocean. It is hardly about the fishermen and fisherwomen. No it isn’t really about religion. It does try to be about the higher good and evil, I suppose. As if Mani Ratnam, having broached the subject of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ in Raavan, decides to continue with the same theme in his next movie.
I strangely had this feeling in the early moments of the movie that it was a personal search of Mani Ratnam’s. A question that he was pondering on and decided to make a movie out of. But after many choregraphed sequences of people coming out of nowhere, wearing Rajasthani costumes and dancing to New York type Jazz in a desert of white sand (and other such absurdities), I gave up. It was nothing. I suppose, a movie maker, as Mani Ratnam has established himself to be, has to make movies. And this one is his next movie.
I got over my personal disappointment with him (I was a big fan, and probably, simply by virtue of nostalgia, still am). After Guru, Raavan, any seasoned fan would have to admit defeat. So watching Kadal was essentially an exercise of habit. I still put this movie above the limitless and relentless cr** that comes out of Mumbai.
However, let’s list out the could have been’s and the should have been’s purely in the interest of a review.
1) The movie should have been about the boy, his illegitimacy, his disillusion (God! the possibilities with this story)
2)The evil and good here is clearly delineated in the characters. No fun to watch. Bad villian/ Good saintly opposite. Even if the boy was supposed to be treading the middle lines. He was no fun to watch at all after he grew up.
3)The setting is great until we reach the present (the early parts of the movie is set in the 1990s). The fishermen and the fisherwomen jump out of the screen. But once the ‘new age’ in India comes to pictures, everybody starts to look like everybody else. To the point that one would question why the ocean was used as a back drop for this story at all. This could have easily been based in the bylanes of Chennai.
4)The girl is mad. A convent educated, mad girl. The guy is nobody. By the time he grows up, he has lost his memory. So his eyes bear no witness to all he has seen and dealt with. He could be anybody. And is nobody.
5)Arjun Sarja is a weak villian. For a person who has to embody all the bad/evil in the world (not sure if the movie deserves such weighty suppositions), he falls pitiably short of his scope
6)Could be that Mani Ratnam might get it right the third time, the battle of the good and the evil.
Watch it I’d say, some sights are beautiful.