This was K.V. Anand’s directorial debut in 2005, and like his film Ayan it is based on a novel by Subha (D. Suresh and A.N. Balakrishnan). Since Subha were also scriptwriters for the excellent Ko, I had high hopes for Kanaa Kanden, and it doesn’t disappoint. Sure, there are a few flaws and Vivek’s comedy in particular feels forced and often inappropriate, but the performances from the leads are excellent and the story suspenseful and gripping right to the end. What starts out as a love story with the innocent and idealistic hero struggling to make his mark in the world, suddenly becomes a much darker thriller with unexpected twists and a climax that makes use of science as well as some good old-fashioned biffo. It’s different, often surprising and even manages to make desalination sexy!
Srikanth is Bhaskar, a rather idealistic PhD student who has found a way to make pure water cheaply from sea-water using the rather improbably titled technique of Quantum Chromo Dynamics. It’s a work of love in many ways as his mother was a water carrier whose labours paid Bhaskar’s way through school and her daily struggles inspired him to find a better way to supply water. He’s also influenced by the water shortages in the city as he sees the people of his neighbourhood queue for the water trucks on a daily basis.
Indeed – what does Quark theory have to do with desalination?! However, it sets the scene for Bhaskar’s rather naïve idea to give his patented technique to the government as a way to provide cheap potable water for everyone, but despite the (eventual) stamp of support from his university he fails to get any government interest in his project. Bhaskar is an everyday guy with a big heart and even bigger ideas, but his innocence seems to work against him in his struggle to realise his dreams. Luckily he has plenty of support from both his glamorous college mentor Vasantha and his new wife Archana (Gopika). Srikanth suits the character of the slightly scruffy scientist and does a great job of blending the characteristics of a typical work obsessed engineer with those of an idealistic dreamer and a guy with a messy bedroom.
The film actually opens with Archana’s wedding, but it’s not Bhaskar who is the groom. Bhaskar has gone back to his village for the wedding of his childhood friend, and if he’s not totally happy about the fact that she is getting married to someone else, he doesn’t give anything away to the bride. But then Archana discovers that her groom is unfaithful and she calls off the wedding, finally leaving with Bhaskar to escape her brother’s anger. Although she moves to Chennai with Bhaskar as his friend, it’s not long before the friendship deepens into romance and the two get married. The romance is sweet and also very uninhibited with Archana just as happy as her husband to initiate kulfi moments (as she calls them).
Both Srikanth and Gopika have some great on-screen chemistry and their relationship is kept realistic with a mix of romance, friendship and just a little conflict. This is the second film I’ve seen with Gopika and she really has a very expressive face. Her reactions are also very natural and she is practical and down to earth opposite to Srikanth’s obsessive scientist.
Bhaskar decides that the only way to get his idea off the ground is to build a prototype factory and let his results speak for themselves. Vasantha has some land which she donates to Bhaskar for his project, but he still has to raise funds for the factory. At this point Archana meets up with an old college friend Madan (Prithviraj) and since he is a business consultant, he offers to help Bhaskar find funding for his project. In what seems to be the answer to Bhaskar and Archana’s prayers, Madan finally offers to lend Bhaskar the money himself, but in reality this is just the start their problems.
Prithviraj is outstanding in his role as the smooth talking Madan and his ultra-controlled and polished businessman provides a good contrast to the passionate Bhaskar. It’s hard to say much about his character without giving away too much of the story, so I’ll just say that you have to watch to find out why he makes such a good villain and why I ended up loathing Madan.
There are a few plot holes and in particular a decision made by Archana which doesn’t seem to fit into the rest of the story, but the rest is excellent. The only other problem I have with Kanaa Kanden is the comedy track with Vivek which was too long and too obtrusive. Vivek can be funny, and he did have a few one-liners which made me smile, but there was just too much of him in a side-plot which was totally irrelevant to the rest of the story. There are so many clever little touches in the rest of the film that it’s disappointing that K.V. Anand felt the need to include such clichéd comedy. The songs by Vidyasagar are pleasant but fairly forgettable and the item song seems totally unnecessary – particularly since there was very little actual dancing. This one is quite fun though with Bhaskar, Archana and Madan burning up the dance floor and generally looking like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
I really liked the theme of water which runs through the film, and the bid to raise awareness of an issue which is a problem in many major cities around the world. To emphasize this central theme, water appeared in some way in many scenes. This was often just in the background, such as the slum children bringing water to the men building the desalination plant, or the bottles of drinking water outside the bank where Bhaskar unsuccessfully applies for a loan. It’s a small touch but one that works very well and shows the amount of detail in the film.
The cinematography by S. Soundar Rajan is excellent and the shots are beautifully framed. There is a fight scene in the forest where the action is all slightly blurred which gives a sense of the confusion and disorientation Bhaskar experiences and is just one of the techniques used to add texture to the film. Worth watching for a more unusual storyline, an earthy and realistic romance and for Prithviraj’s quite detestable villain. 4 stars.