Straight off the bat, Mani Ratnam’s Kadal is nowhere in the league of his earlier films. He has been let down by a wobbling script and weak characterisation. Mani is also in alien territory exploring Christian philosophy and teachings. He is trying to find answers to a tussle going on between good and the evil in the hero’s mind!
Still nobody makes mainstream commercially glossy films better than Mani with song ‘n’ dance and romance in his films. The film works to a certain extent on performances of its lead actors, AR Rahman’s music and Rajiv Menon’s exquisite camera work.
The film begins in a Christian seminary where two principle characters, Sam Fernandez (Arvind Swamy) a devoted good man meets Bergman (Arjun), who is more interested in having a good time. They have serious differences and choose different paths. Sam takes the way leading to the lord while Bergman believes he is the devil himself and takes to smuggling and other nefarious activities.
Sam comes to a coastal village as a local priest and reforms a wayward young boy Thomas (Gautham Karthik), who becomes very close to him. Thomas falls in love with Beatrice (Thulasi Nair), a childlike and innocent girl, with a sad past. Due to certain machinations of Bergman, the poor priest Sam is framed and sent to jail. The satanic Bergman also brings Thomas under his tutelage and the truth also comes out that Beatrice is his daughter!
It is basically the story of the good versus evil with Arvind Swamy as the good man while Arjun is the devil incarnation. And intertwined somewhere along is the love story of Thomas and Beatrice, set against the milieu of sea.Kadal’s fatal flaw is the weak characterisation. Bergman’s pathological hatred for Sam, a good man who has not done any harm to him is not convincing.
The first half is interesting especially the introduction scene of Gautham in a catamaran. But it’s not all hunky-dory. Once we cross the intermission barrier, the film does begin to flag a bit. The second half does not match the entertainment value of the first, it could definitely have been much slicker.
One must say Mani Ratnam knew what he was doing when he cast Gautham Karthik as the lead. The boy is good as he dances, emotes, fights, makes one forget this is his debut film. He seems to be a promising star with an appealing screen presence. Contrast to Gautham, Thulasi as Beatrice has a very little screen space and she has tried her best to do a fair job of the young, chirpy girl.
Arjun is deliciously despicable in his career’s most memorable negative role while Aravind Swamy delivers a riveting, sincere performance. Lakshmi Manchu is wasted in an inconspicuous role.
Rajiv Menon’s striking camerawork; especially those scenes framed against a monsoon sky, heavy with dark clouds, deep sea are magical. AR Rahman’s music is one of the major plus of the film and pick of the lot is Moongil Thottam… and Elay Keechan… .