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January 19, 2000

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A film worth seeing!

Aswathy

Vijay and Shalini in Kannukkul Nilavu Director Fazil has repeated the psychoanalytical theme of Manichithrathazhu, his earlier Malayalam mega-hit, in Chintamani Cine Arts's Pongal offering, Kannukkul Nilavu (Tamil). This time too, both the story and narration have his stamp of sensitivity. But the highlight of the film is actor Vijay's power-packed performance.

Gautham (Vijay), a music student, is obsessed with the disappearance of Gayathri, the girl he loves. He comes to Pondichery in search of her and meets Hema (Shalini) and her pals in a restaurant. As is their usual wont, they play a practical prank on him which boomerangs when Gautham turns the table on them with his singing and dancing prowess. He then tells them about his mission to find Gayathri.

His partial amnesia and queer gestures and mannerisms make Hema and her friends wonder if he is sane. Hema feels remorseful, especially since her mother was a mental patient, and empathises with Gautham. She takes him to her father, Dr Rajashekhar (Raghuvaran), who is a psychiatrist, for treatment. Gautham, under a hypnotic trance, narrates how he was a helpless witness to Gayathri's murder and affirms his resolve to take revenge on the three perpetrators of the crime. Which puts Dr Rajashekhar in a dilemma as he realises that Gautham, once cured of his obsession for Gayathri, will be a prey to another form of obsessive neurosis, this time to kill Gayathri's murderers.

Hema's empathy for Gautham turns into love. All her father's attempts to convince her about the hopelessness of the situation are in vain. Then, Dr Rajashekhar manages to trace the culprits, who tell him a different story.

Gautham regains his memory when his mother arrives on the scene. But the change that comes over him is drastic and disastrous. Thwarting everyone's attempts to stop him, he goes after the 'killers'. Where a shocking surprise awaits himů.

Fazil, as always, is good though the narration could have been more breezy in the first half. The trauma caused by the beloved's death, leading to an imbalance in the hero's mental equilibrium, is not unheard of in Indian films. But a modern urban girl like Hema falling in love with a psychiatric patient is a bit difficult to digest as her interaction with the hero is always tinged with uneasiness and fear. Fazil could have taken pains to build up the relationship in a more convincing manner.

Fazil scores, though, in the twists he introduces that turn the simple story of Gautham's search for Gayathri into a haunting mystery and a journey into the hero's troubled psyche. His sensitive directorial touches are not to be missed in scenes where Hema's father tries to make her realise her folly; the way Gautham's mother reacts when she finally meets her son after a long and agonising search; when Gautham breaks down on his mother's lap unable to bear his inner torment; when Gautham, with a childlike vulnerability, goes on making mud cakes while waiting for Hema's return touches our heart.

Fazil has successfully explored on the nuances of the human mind. But he has failed in sustaining the suspense when he makes Hema tell Gautham about the truth regarding Gayathri, though the latter refuses to believe her. It reduces the intensity of the climax considerably and makes the final denouement rather tame.

Vijay as the hero is just brilliant! The actor has shown laudable skill both in the way he has handled this complicated role and in expressing various shades of Gautham's tormented mind. Especially from the moment he becomes aggressive, with the violent streak predominating and eyes blazing with manic fury. After Vijay's success draught of 1999, Kannukkul Nilavu should definitely bring him a much-needed hit and become landmark in his career.

Raghuvaran, whose biggest asset as an artiste is his baritone voice, has given a sterling performance as Dr Rajashekhar. He has successfully portrayed the conflict between the doting father and the committed doctor and its inherent pathos in a very touching manner. He tugs at our heartstrings, especially in sequences where he expresses his helplessness to a silently pleading Gautham's mother and when he tries to dissuade his daughter from meeting Gautham.

Both Shalini, as Hema, and Sreevidya, as the heartbroken mother, have done a good job especially in the scenes where Gautham terrorises them with his violent behaviour. Charlie and his friends bring the necessary comic relief.

Fazil deserves special kudos for avoiding cheap comedy and double entendres, which have become the bane of many a Tamil film. There is clean, subtle humour, the tone of which is set in the opening shot. And there are hilarious situations, like when Vijay frightens the wits out of Hema and her gang with his antics in the 'haunted' house.

Ilayaraja's music is melodious and soothing. The songs Iravu pakale thedi, soulfully rendered by Yesudas, and Nilavu pattu nilavu paattu, by Hariharan, are outstanding. The pleasant visuals are another plus point. All in all, this is a film worth seeing.

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