Kanthaswamy is not a great film, but instead serves as an excellent example of what might have been. A potentially appealing concept – a modern superhero/Robin Hood taking on the system, with all the benefits of the latest film technology and a good cast. And yet it falls short of the mark. A meandering story line, an irritating heroine and uneven pace mean this falls into mediocre territory. It’s still a moderately enjoyable film, but could have been a lot better.
Vikram plays Kanthasamy, an officer in the economic offences department of the CBI who leads a double life as Kanthaswamy, a modern day version of Robin Hood. Pay attention to that “w”! Using a local temple dedicated to Lord Murugan to assess who is in need , he and his band of merry men use money they have acquired as a result of their CBI raids, and distribute it to the poor.
Kanthasamy’s back up team are skilled in theatrical productions and technology, and after each reckoning with the villains, we get to see how it was set-up. We really enjoyed this – it was a cool twist on the invulnerable loner type of heroes. It also allowed for some back story about the group of friends and the introduction of one of the villains of the story.
Kanthaswamy is literally a ‘chicken’ superhero. He has a great lair with numerous chickens which presumably come in handy for costume feathers as well as for Kanthaswamy to perfect his chicken impersonations.
Vikram is awesome as a chicken. No one else to our knowledge has managed to capture the mannerisms and emotional range of a chicken as well as he. He makes the most of these Chicken Superhero moments and these are when the film works best.
There is also some clever comedy as Kanthaswamy metes out punishment to those who try to cheat the poor. One of the best moments occurs when local ne’er-do-wells pray for an Aishwarya Rai lookalike to come visit them and have some “fun” – and their wish is fulfilled in an unexpected but truly deserved manner.
The growing fame of Kanthaswamy brings the attention of police and media, and everyone wants to know who the Masked Chicken Man is. He falls foul (had to do it!) of local big-shot PPP, who promptly fakes illness to avoid further police action. The rest of the plot revolves around PPP and another local crime lord Raj Mohan; detailing their various machinations to eliminate both avatars of Kanthasamy so they can get back to their illegal financial skulduggery, and the ways in which their plans are foiled.
As a second thread, PPP’s daughter, Subbulakshmi is roped in by her father to seduce Kanthasamy and bring him into her father’s crime organisation. This very annoying character is played by Shriya. It says a lot that at one stage, Subbu’s life was in danger and we were yelling at the screen for Kanthasamy to let her die! Portraying the heroine in the monotonously OTT way chosen here gave Shriya nothing positive to work with – as we didn’t buy the emotional element to the story, it became a distraction and deadweight. And her hair looks like a meringue; it’s also very distracting and annoying. Shriya has been better in other films we have seen, so we suspect the director may have really missed the mark with this. The role itself had potential to elicit more sympathy from viewers but the performance highlights the narcissistic, arrogant and trashy aspects over the more likeable qualities that could have been conveyed.
Vikram plays his role quite deadpan, and the direction relies on a psychic voiceover to convey many of the inner thoughts and feelings “I know she knows that I know she knows”. This is a good gimmick, but is overused and may hamper the performances.
The running comedy track involving a dim-witted petty crook who operates in the vicinity of the temple is integrated with the story and is occasionally funny. But it is too long, recurs too often and disrupts the rhythm of the story.
The songs were huge hits. They are well integrated into the film and are successfully used to show aspects of the character. However, there is limited dancing, always a negative in our view, and what dancing there is wasn’t well choreographed for the actors’ skills. The exception to this is the songs featured on Vikram and friends which does work much better. Allegra in particular is a fine example of how bad choreography can derail a song! And the subtitles throughout the songs are frequently perplexing!
The first half of the film moves along pretty well. There is intrigue as Subbu and her evil father PPP attempt to destroy Kanthasamy as he takes on big business and corruption in and out of the police force. Then it all goes off the rails as the story shifts to Mexico for no good reason.
The motivation of characters seems to get muddled as well. Subbu wanted Kanthasamy to love her so she could destroy him but she loves him or doesn’t (we really couldn’t work this out!) and there is no rationale embedded in her changes of heart. A needlessly convoluted sting operation later, the characters return to India, and the film starts racing to its conclusion.
Finally, PPP gets Kanthasamy in his clutches and thinks he has control over the activity of Superhero Kanthaswamy as well – but he is mistaken. Subbu learns that her father isn’t the man she thought he was, and Kanthasamy is more than a match for her. We learn that we are all Kanthaswamy or maybe we’re not, and that in the Rock-Paper-Scissors of life, a sledgehammer will beat a bus any day. All’s well that ends well, but do we still care?
You may be wondering about item numbers. We were. Luckily Mumaith Khan shows them how it’s done! (Beverage warning applies – get the drinks away from the computer before you watch this. We have warned you.)
Heather says: I heard the songs from Kanthaswamy while I was working in Tamil Nadu as they were being played everywhere. Even the local school children performed to Allegra at their prize giving. I’d even seen the song clips as we had DVDs on our bus, so knew that the choreography didn’t quite live up to the potential of Devi Sri Prasad’s music. (The reactions of the other Australian Health Professionals to their first views of Mumaith Khan gyrating away to some uninhibited subtitles was however priceless!) So I was disappointed when I managed to watch the entire film, as it could have been so much better! There are quite a few notable moments in the film, but they are all centred on Chicken Superhero Kanthaswamy and his team of experts. I really didn’t like Shriya in this at all, and found her presence to be an annoying distraction which totally derailed the plot for me. Her storyline could have been removed which I think would have made for a more coherent plot and subsequently better paced film. I don’t understand why Susi Ganeshan decided to make her such an unsympathetic character, as by the end there seemed to be no reason why Kanthasamy would fall in love with her. Indeed the actors seem to have come to the same conclusion as this romance was very unconvincing. The frequent cuts from Vikram fighting as Kanthaswamy to him exercising and training may have been an attempt to make the film feel more like a HW blockbuster, but just disrupted the flow for me. Despite this, overall the film looks good with some great visual effects and excellent choreography in the fight scenes. Ashish Vidyarthi and Mukesh Tiwari were excellent as the villains and much more entertaining than the good guys. But despite the amazing chicken impersonations, and great songs this film ultimately just disappoints – especially when you can see how good it might have been! 3 stars from me
Temple says: I didn’t hate this film, but there wasn’t a lot to love either. Ultimately, the frustration of seeing the potential for this to be a more entertaining film but not getting there overwhelmed the positives. The constant shifts from superhero to comedy to unconvincing romance just grated. If this had been a straight out Robin Hood crime caper with a superhero and his team taking on the system, I think it could have been great. Despite the big FX budget and glossy visuals this has a real pot-boiler feel as elements appeared to be added on at whim – the excursion to Mexico, the comedy track, the sting operation etc. Shriya really fails to impress in the role of Subbu, and yet I have quite liked her in other films (Chatrapathi for example, and she was very good in Kutty). For those of you wondering about whether her hairdo really did look like a meringue:
Vikram was good as the Chicken Man but less effective as the real Kanthasamy – perhaps due to the voice-over which spared him the need to emote in many scenes. They had no chemistry at all as a couple, although there is a really dire attempt at seductive song magic in the “Miaow Miaow” track. I tend to feel the director was at fault for this character misfire as the performers are capable but the film overall lacks a centre. I don’t like the soundtrack that much, and really the only reason to re-watch the songs was for the spectacular subtitles. It’s actually not a bad time pass, but I was hoping for a lot more. I give this 3 and 1/2 stars – it gets a bonus half star for the excellent drag fight choreography.