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Movie Review: Kanthaswamy (2009) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 82%%82%% 82% (41 votes)
Movie Still Before its release, Kandhaswamy proved that hype could be manufactured with a big budget and clever marketing. Considering that it had a hero whose last film was a flop and a director who had no blockbusters to his credit, the film's hype far exceeded what one would normally expect from a collaboration of those two. While films rarely match the pre-release hype when it is artificially created, Kandhaswamy doesn't even live up to the expectations one could reasonably have, from a film starring Vikram and directed by Susi Ganeshan. Silly and shoddy, it looks and feels like a cheap knock-off of a Shankar film.

The people of Thirupporur suddenly find themselves to be a lucky bunch as their wishes for money, which they write down on a piece of paper and tie on a tree near the temple, magically come true. The reason for this is Kandhaswamy, a masked man dressed up as a rooster, who is getting them the money without their knowledge. While the people are convinced that higher powers are behind this, DIG Parandhaman(Prabhu) is convinced that it is a man and is determined to find him. Meanwhile Kandhaswamy(Vikram), an officer belonging to the Economic Offenses wing of the CBI, is going after Ponnusamy(Ashish Vidyarthi), who has all his ill-gotten wealth hidden abroad. This angers his daughter Subbulakshmi(Shriya), who wants to take revenge on Kandhaswamy.

Susi Ganeshan might have apprenticed with Manirathnam but Kandhaswamy makes it clear that he is influenced by Shankar. But with this pale imitation, Susi only manages to make us gain some new-found respect for what Shankar does. The Sivaji director has a keen sense of grandeur(that makes his movies seem larger-than-life)and pacing(that keeps the flaws hidden), atleast until the end credits roll. Susi takes on a similar theme of a social crusader trying to right the ills of society and is armed with an equally large budget, but proves incapable of both crafting a tight screenplay and staging the song sequences and the action aesthetically. So the film just seems like an enormous waste of money.

The film is well-intentioned and has a novel concept of a man using his superhero identity and his secret identity(one takes and one gives) in tandem to address what is at the root of society's ills. But it doesn't help that the superhero costume looks rather silly and while Vikram's posturing looks like he wants to instil fear in his targets' hearts, everything else about him - his walk, his head-bobbing, his clucking, his robot moves - make us laugh. His actions don't make much sense(he's probably the only superhero to keep his own name as his character's name too!) but this is one movie where atleast the gravity-defying stunts make sense. Though the mind-boggling logistics involved in making everything work are glossed over, the explanations for his superhero acts make sense and seeing them in action, like during the hunt in the field, is fun.

The film has a serious theme but doesn't handle it with seriousness. Vikram's thoughts about the disparity between the rich and the poor ring true and his logic for his actions is valid. But the way everything is presented precludes the seriousness from coming across. Whether its Vikram dressing up as a woman to teach someone a lesson for their trivial wish or Prabhu interrogating Vadivelu as part of his investigation or Shriya waltzing into the CBI office to seduce Vikram, the proceedings have a frivolity that is damaging to what the movie is trying to achieve.

Remember the package with the expensive, shiny gift-wrap in Pesum Padam? Kandhaswamy is like the movie equivalent of that(think of the viewer as the guy who was tempted by the packaging and ended up opening it). On the surface it has a rich sheen with the exotic locales and the expensive sets but these don't hide the stench of cheapness emanating from inside. And the cheapness is not just in the comedy, which sees Vadivelu at his crassest, with jokes on everything from body parts to bodily emanations(his act when he is being hosed down in the police station provides the single laugh in the entire track). Everything else, like Vikram's superhero costume and the romance with the melodramatic sentiments and the characterization of the bad guys, feels cheap too.

Nowhere is the movie's contrast between the glossy exterior and the cheap inside more in evidence than during the sequence in Mexico. The country provides some fabulous locales, which are captured beautifully with aerial shots. But the happenings here, which include a song sequence, a ridiculous fight sequence with a blindfolded Vikram and Alex uttering a line like "Mexico-la Pichumani-ya theriaadhavangale irukkamudiyadhu" that wouldn't be out of place in a spoof of gangster movies, are laughably amateurish.

The movie needs a star rather than an actor and so Vikram is just required to act stylish throughout. He carries himself well as the CBI officer and conveys the sincerity of someone out to change the world. There is a scene where Shriya tears off portions of her dress to accuse Vikram and one feels that that must have been the designing process used for the rest of her costumes too. The short hair suits her and though she has the figure to carry off the mimimal clothing, her expressions and actions are vulgar rather than sensuous, especially in the Meow Meow... number. Prabhu's girth seems to be increasing a couple of inches in each film but he isn't required to do much since his character is quite ineffective. Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajmohan are typical villains. The song sequences have the required components like good locales and eye-catching costumes but they don't really come together in a way that would result in a memorable song sequence. This is particularly true of Mambo Mamiya... and Poda Podi.... Allegra... is saved by Shriya's dance moves while Mumaith Khan makes us question the movie's 'U' certificate with her costumes and moves in En Peru Meenakumari.... The theme song turns out to be the best number since it has the requisite beats and intensity to serve as the background score for the superhero's appearances.

Kandhaswamy opens with a caption about wiping away others' tears. That could have well served as a warning to potential viewers.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam