Delicate flower caught in a storm
Mani Ratnam's forte is to make films on burning issues. This time, too, with the seething Sri Lankan problem as backdrop, he presents a sensitive story about a delicate flower caught in a storm.
Tamil film Kannathil Muthamittal does not have any Humma humma [Bombay] or Chhaiya chhaiya [Dil Se] or old dancing women [Roja, Dalapati].
Though the issue has been tackled in a couple of recent Tamil films, Ratnam's Kannathil Muthamittal is way ahead.
An honestly told tale without frills, the film starts with a wedding taking place in the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka. As the husband (Chakravarty) leaves for the rebellion, the pregnant wife (Nandita Das) is forced to go to India, risking the armies of both countries. She survives many hazards in the journey, captured brilliantly by cinematographer Ravi K Chandran.
Midway, she learns that her husband is wounded and wants to return. After she gives birth in the refugee camp, she leaves for her native land and her husband --- but without her daughter.
The girl (Keerthana, daughter of Parthipan and Seetha) grows up in a foster home --- in the Madhavan-Simran household, with two younger brothers for company. She simply is a heart-stealer. Whether it is being peeved with her parents or while bullying her brothers, Keerthana is a wonderful performer.
She also leaves you bewildered --- you don't know whether to marvel at her prowess or empathise with the young child getting to know her roots. She brilliantly portrays turmoil when she comes to know that she is in a foster home, that her grandfather, parents and her brothers are not her blood.
A R Rahman, dialogue writer Sujata and lyricist Vairamuthu lend ample support to this offering, with Sabu Cyril designing the fantastic sets, especially the Sri Lankan portions.
Mani Ratnam seems to have drawn out the best from Simran, who has been shying away from glamorous roles for a while now.
Nandita Das tugs at your heart-strings when she tries to answer her little daughter's questions as to why she deserted her daughter for her motherland and her husband.
Madhavan lives the character of the writer he portrays, shedding off the Maddy [teenyboopper] image he has so often conveyed.
In parting, Mani Ratnam has taken a bold stance at this issue, which he has earlier only hinted at.