Kanaa: A Formulaic Sports Film With A Lack Of Proper Focus & Conflict
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Director Arunraja Kamaraj’s first film, Kanaa sets out with the intention of being Tamil Nadu’s ground-breaking sports drama. The director captures the sports part of this equation at least reasonably right but it is the drama that goes for a toss. The backbone of a good sports film is a convincing conflict and this film fails to serve up a decent one. Furthermore, it tries to merge storylines based on the struggles of a farmer and a sportswoman. Considering the fact that both these storylines are too dominant, trying to blend them together is a bad decision. Not being able to explore either in a satisfying manner, the director gives you a half-baked film. If you try to look past these errors, all you find is a formulaic approach that you have grown tired of by now.
Murugesan (Sathyaraj) is a struggling farmer with a penchant for watching cricket. He is a hardcore fan who simply doesn’t take the Indian team’s defeat easily. His daughter, Kousalya Murugesan (Aishwarya Rajesh) grows up watching her father’s boundless happiness every time the Indian team wins the game. So, she aspires to be a cricketer too. Her aspirations appear absurd in the small town that she is a part of but Kousi chases her dreams by learning the sport from her cousin brother and his local cricket team. Soon, Kousi grows up and her dreams of being a part of India’s cricket team grows with it. Her father, on the other hand, faces the threat of having to give up farming due to a lack of funds to sustain it. In this father-daughter journey, whether or not both of them live the life of their dreams forms the crux of the film.
The struggle of a 21st-century farmer is a vast topic, so is the topic of women’s Indian cricket. So, when director Arunraja tries to combine the two together, there is trouble in paradise. On one hand, you see Murugesan’s struggle and on the other, his daughter struggles to find her place in the Indian team. The film which constantly switches between these two struggles fails to focus on either whole-heartedly. This is why you never invest your emotions in the journey of these characters.
The first forty-five minutes of Kanaa is the worst. The film takes too long to dive into the story and just as the cricketing is about to begin, the film pauses once for a duet and then goes on to pause again for an inter-village dispute. Such pauses take away from the seriousness of the story. Here and there, absurd jokes are stuffed into the narrative leaving you restless. It further distracts you with dialogues that are too long and spoken too fast. Instead of trying to convey everything with the use of dialogues, the director could’ve used the visual language to communicate key emotions.
One of the most pressing issues with Kanaa lies in the way it approaches Kousi’s passion. There are a few montages of her bowling and to be honest they all look the same. There is no passion and you can never sense her longing for the game. The characters around her often speak of her talent but you can never see it. Just like in a typical mass hero film, they try to build her up too but there are no convincing conflicts for you to take her seriously. It is as though they have applied the formula of a conventional hero-centric film with the only alteration being the presence of a heroine instead of a hero. In fact, during one of the matches, the commentators actually refer to the batswoman as a batsman in running commentary.
The only two scenes that work in the film is the final World Cup match between India and Australia and Kousi’s winning speech following the match. They bring about the emotional depth the film lacks in other sequences.
As Kousalya Murugesan aka Kausi, Aishwarya Rajendran delivers an average performance. Her body language while bowling is on point. From her on-field performance, It is clear that she has put in a lot of practice and hard work to come across as a professional bowler. But when it comes to off-field acting, she lets you down. Maybe her limitations here are to be blamed on the writing, but her emotions and performance are too one-note. She is either about to cry or about to bowl. She acts like a child in moments and is really mature in other moments and this inconsistency is disappointing. As coach Nelson, Sivakarthikeyan is good but his screen presence isn’t magnanimous enough for you to accept him in the role of a coach. He lacks the command, drive, and eccentricity that comes with a character like this. As Murugesan, Sathyaraj is good but his character could’ve been written better. He is too dramatic in certain scenes and he is found hamming in a few sequences too. But this too is a result of the writer’s poor character development.
Dhibu Ninan Thomas’s music in Kanaa is extremely intrusive. The background score is too overpowering and the songs are not in line with the happenings in the film. For example, the visuals of the first song ‘Vaayadi Petha Pulla’ don’t align with the visuals and lyrics. In moments when the music should exuberate inspiration, it is upbeat and off-sync.
Considering his previous body of work, Dinesh Krishnan’s cinematography in Kanaa is sub-par. It fails to capture the essence of the action on the field and the emotional intensity of a few key scenes are not captured convincingly.
On the whole, Kanaa sets out with good intentions. It tries to be Tamil Nadu’s version of Chak De India. Unfortunately, the director’s formulaic approach and unclear focus take over the film’s intentions and leave us with a predictable and average entertainer.