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Review Malayalam

Kaanekkaane review: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas are top-notch in this intense, slow-burn thriller

Release Date: 17 Sep 2021 / 02hr 00min

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Suyog Zore

Director Manu Ashokan masterfully sustains the tense atmosphere throughout the film's duration.

After Uyare (2019), writers Bobby-Sanjay and director Manu Ashokan are back with another emotional thriller which successfully walks the tightrope between intense thriller and slow emotional family drama.

This is a film about two flawed individuals. One is trying to overcome grief; the other is consumed by guilt. In their darkest moments, both are capable of despicable acts, but they are not despicable people.

Almost a year after his daughter's death in a road accident, Paul Mathai (Suraj Venjaramoodu) visits son-in-law Allen (Tovino Thomas) and is welcomed by the pregnant Sneha (Aishwarya Lekshmi). There is an awkward silence between the two. We slowly find out why.

Sneha is Allen's second wife. As Paul meets his grandson Kuttu and observes the house, sees the new portraits of a seemingly happy family, he realizes that Allen and his son have almost forgotten Sherin (Shruti Ramachandran) and replaced her with Sneha. Paul is still coming to terms with his daughter's death and pursuing the hit-and-run case in court.

His hesitant manner, withdrawn expressions and the way he always avoids eye contact reflect how he no longer feels part of this family. But in his brief stay, he notices something that forces him to dig deeper into the memories. He becomes relentless in his pursuit of the truth.

Sneha and Allen are also not a happy couple. Allen has almost withdrawn from the relationship because of the guilt that is consuming him, and when Sneha confronts him about it, he refuses to open up.

In his second film, Manu Ashokan presents a complex story about love, betrayal, grief, guilt and loneliness. He masterfully sustains the tense atmosphere throughout the film's duration. There is a sense of uneasiness from the first frame till the last. The screenplay moves seamlessly from the past to the present, giving us an idea of the relationships among the characters and how death has irrevocably affected their lives.

For the most part, Manu Ashokan and his writers Bobby and Sanjay don't offer any easy way out of the moral dilemma presented by the film. They refuse to take a stand and simply observe the characters and their actions sans judgment.

Writers Bobby and Sanjay humanize their characters with grey shades. They are selfish, opportunistic, but they also feel empathy, love and remorse.

The highlight here is definitely the terrific performance by the leading cast. Suraj Venjaramoodu anchors the film with his outstanding performance as a grieving and lonely father who is trying to unearth the truth which others would like to be buried. He plays Paul with commendable restraint. The credit also goes to the writers and the director for playing down any chance of overdramatization because there were many opportunities to turn this into a banter-heavy melodrama. 

Tovino once again pulls off a character of two extremes with ease after Kala (2021). His is the most difficult role in this film. Allen is flawed, selfish, but also a loving father and a man trying to live with guilt. Tovino beautifully shows Allen's indecisiveness, reluctance and also his positivity.

Aishwarya Lekshmi is excellent as Sneha. She brilliantly shows Sneha's vulnerability and confusion as she struggles with the stress of her marriage. She makes us empathize with her position.

When everything seems to be going fine for the movie, the forced happy ending plays spoilsport. The convenient end does not feel earned. Even the sudden shift in characters comes across as unconvincing. It would have been more impactful if the film had allowed for an open ending that reflects reality and all the complications that come with it. 

That said, Kaanekkaane is still among the better thrillers to have come out of Indian cinema in recent times. It shows us how even a momentary moral lapse can cause irreversible damage.

Kaanekkaane can be viewed on SonyLIV.


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