Vignesh Shivan’s latest film with Vijay Sethupathi is a romantic comedy with the ‘twist’ that Rambo is equally in love with two girls. In any other film, this would be called two-timing or cheating, but here we are supposed to feel sorry for Rambo and support his attempts to commit bigamy. For all of that, there are some entertaining moments, and all three leads put in good performances. But at the end of the day, Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhai is a one-time watch with an unsatisfying love triangle.
The film starts with a TV show called ‘Real or Reel’ that’s explaining how Rambo ended up with two loves. There is a flashback to the story of young Rambo (Kamalesh) and his unlucky family. None of the family are able to marry due to their reputation for bad luck until the day Rambo’s father decides to wed Minah Kaif (Divya Pillai). Thinking their luck has turned, the family celebrates, but on the day he is born, Rambo’s father names him as Ranjankudi Anbarasu Murugesa Boopathy Ohondhiran (aka Rambo), which you would think would be bad enough luck all by itself. But then his father dies, and Rambo’s mother has a stroke that leaves her bedridden. From here, nothing goes well for Rambo. His mother becomes more unwell when he nears her bed, and as soon as he walks out into the rain it stops. Saddest of all, he can never manage to buy a chocolate ice-cream and the entire village considers him to be unlucky. Despite all this Rambo manages to grow up and back in the present day has 2 jobs and a nice apartment, so he can’t be all that unlucky all the time – just with rain and ice-cream.
By day Rambo is a driver for Ola cabs, and this is how he meets Kanmani (Nayanthara). She is looking for a husband and uses Rambo’s cab to travel to meet prospective grooms and their families. Kanamani has two siblings, her younger sister Minmini (Dipika Kothari) and her brother Bhargav (Bhargav Sundar) who has Downs syndrome. Part of her problem is that she needs to marry to regain ownership of the house her father left her, but she also wants to be sure that any prospective husband will also look after Minmini and Bhargav. This appears to be a major sticking point as none of the families she visits are willing to accept Kanmani along with her siblings. However, in her journeys with Rambo, Kanmani finds him to be kind and accepting of her brother and sister, while in turn they both accept him too. Slowly Kanmani starts to think of Rambo as a potential life partner and eventually she proposes to him.
By night, Rambo is a bouncer at a nightclub and there he meets Khatija (Samantha), the rather reluctant girlfriend of club owner Mohammed Mobi (S. Sreesanth). Mobi is a drunken rich prat who is abusive and generally unpleasant, so when he slaps Khatija, it’s a relief to see him get his comeuppance from Rambo. Naturally Rambo and Khatija become friends and he keeps her safe when Mobi starts stalking Khatija and generally behaving in a threatening way. Both Kanmani and Khatija declare their love at the same time leaving Rambo at a loss of what to do as he loves them both equally and decides he cannot give up one for the other.
It’s bad enough that Rambo is two-timing the two women, but the story takes a turn for the worse when Kanmani and Khatija both fight over Rambo after they all end up moving into Kanmani’s house together. It gets even more problematic when Rambo’s friend (Lollu Sabha Maaran) tries to convince both women to marry Rambo since their love has turned his life around after his tragic childhood. Frustratingly it’s left to the women to ‘save’ Rambo, who really does not need saving at all given he is gainfully employed, has a number of friends and a family who care about him. Regardless, Kanmani and Khatija have to put their differences aside to soothe Rambo and ignore their own distress at finding out he has been two-timing them with each other.
This is the central problem with the story, and it leaves a really bad taste behind. The rest of the comedy with Rambo’s aunt (Kala Master) and uncles desperately trying to get him to marry to lift their own ‘curse’ feels tacked on to give a reason for the idea of Rambo marrying two women, while the drama with his (now older) mother (Seema) seems superficial and again a device solely to promote Rambo’s wedding.
And yet, there are parts of the film that do work well. Despite the rather low-key nature of the two romances, there are couple of standout scenes. One on a bridge with Rambo and Khatija trying to get to know each other is written to bring out Rambo’s vulnerability while a sequence with Kanmani in the cab demonstrates his kindness and thoughtfulness. I also like how cinematographers S.R. Kathir and Vijay Karthik Kannan change the lighting to show the difference between Kanmani and Khatija. The lighting for Khatija is bright and fluorescent, with scenes shot in the nightclub and on neon-lit city streets, while Kanmani is shown during the day in more natural lighting. The women are divided in their clothing as well with Kanmani depicted as traditional, wearing sari’s and Indian clothing while Khatija frequents night clubs and only wears Western clothes. To continue the dichotomy, Kanmani is Hindu while Khatija is Muslim. Other examples include Kanmani having a job in a show shop while Khatija is wealthy enough to give Rambo money without asking him any questions and Kanmani having 2 siblings while Khatija appears to be an only child. It becomes farcical when Kanmani tells Rambo she prefers plain shirts, while Khatija votes for patterned, which leaves Rambo wearing a hybrid of the two to try and keep both women happy.
While Vignesh Shivan has focused on the issue of Rambo’s supposed jinx and his inability to choose between Kanmani and Khatija, he adds odd details which never go anywhere. When Kanmani and Rambo meet there is a log dialogue about her being Bengali but after this scene, her heritage is never mentioned again. The house Kanmani’s father left her is being used as a film set and a rather unpleasant relative is living there, but again this is never explained, nor this relative’s brief supposed interested in Kanmani as a potential wife. There are just as many unexplained questions about Khatija. For instance, she tells Rambo she wants to be a singer, but after this we hear nothing more about her career. It’s also never explained why she puts up with Mobi, apart from some vague mention of not wanting to make her father ill. A further exploration of any of these points, and just 1 heroine would have made this a more interesting and satisfying film to watch, but instead Vignesh is determined to go stick with his two-timing hero.
While Vijay Sethupathi, Nayanthara and Samantha are all fine in their roles, the romances are sterile and there is little passion between Rambo and his two fiancées. Of the support cast, Redin Kingsley and Kala Master fare the best and S. Sreesanth is nicely repulsive as Mobi. Thankfully Anirudh is back on form after the woeful Beast soundtrack, and his songs here are a mix of sweetly sentimental and upbeat dance numbers that all sound great. However at 2 hours and 39 minutes, Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhai quickly outstays its welcome and despite the music, performances and general all round greatness that is Vijay Sethupathi, this really is one just for fans. 3 stars.