The ignition point of every love story is the stretch where the hero and heroine meet – and in Kayal, the director Prabhu Solomon gives us a wonderfully orchestrated sequence. Aaron (Chandran) and his friend Socrates (Vincent) have unknowingly abetted a crime – at least, it’s a crime in the eyes of the men who bring these two to the local zamindar’s house. We know something is up because, as they enter the house, we hear the same Ilayaraja song (Enge en jeevane) we heard earlier, when Aaron told Socrates that he was waiting to fall in love. But once there, the men begin to beat up Aaron and Socrates. The mix of moods is amazing. Along with this violence, we get a lot of comedy – the reason for an old woman’s speechlessness is hilarious, and a batty old man brings the house down with his spaced-out demeanor. There’s drama as well, involving caste, family honour. And above all, there’s melodrama, when Aaron falls for the servant of the house, Kayal (Anandhi), and ends up in a situation where he is doused with petrol and she holds the match. It’s literally the ignition point.
There’s a lot to like about Prabhu Solomon’s movies. He takes on refreshingly offbeat premises. He makes earthy stories set far away from the cities, and he doesn’t subscribe to the notion that stories set in villages are necessarily drenched in blood. His violence is more emotional – he deals with love stories. He uses actors who look like real people, not glammed-up stars who’ve gone de-glam in order to play “villagers”. (The fresh-faced Anandhi looks lovely, and she performs pretty well too.) I loved the conception of Aaron and Socrates as two homeless youths who take up temporary jobs and then blow up all their money on grand tours. They go far north and marvel at stalactites. Then they visit the Taj Mahal. There’s a moving reason behind this wanderlust, and it has to do with Aaron’s father – but this is where the problems with this director come to the fore.
He cannot resist overstatement – and I’m not just talking about the cut to a poster of Kaadhal when a love-struck Aaron comes looking for Kayal. Take the scene at the railway station where Aaron and Socrates are revealed to be the proverbial “free birds.” A few dozen lines have already left us with this impression. (And these aren’t just lines – they’re more like the slogans you’d find on motivational posters.) Then, Socrates points at pigeons on the platform, and when they fly away he exclaims that they’re like these birds, only without wings. And we’re still not done. A song follows, and it goes… Paravayaa parakkirom. The tunes by D Imman aren’t bad (though not as memorable as the ones he gave for Prabhu Solomon’s previous film, Kumki), but there are too many songs and too little writing to fill up the stretches in between.
The film appears to be an attempt to tell a story whose beats we are familiar with, the only difference being the setting – the tsunami of 2004. (It’s quite nicely rendered. For a change, they seem to have spent money on the special effects.) The elements, destiny, even God (manifest as the sun peeking through a cloud) – all have a part to play. And if we’re being really charitable, we could say that this near-mythical superstructure accounts for the too-easy contrivances – despite being separated, Kayal and Aaron are always just an accidental meeting away. But that still leaves us with an enormous problem. The central emotion that’s supposed to drive all this, the great love between Aaron and Kayal, is too wispy to warrant all this drama, which is constantly underlined by a score that just won’t stop. We’re meant to feel their pain, their pining, but all we feel is the film straining to be an epic.
* Kayal = carp (as in, the fish); usually used in names to denote the beauty of a woman’s eyes
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