A simplistic plot and screenplay shorn of imagination notwithstanding, this Anandhi-starrer lacks another crucial element: entertainment
Imagine having to sit through a climax that is 15-odd minutes of a Pickbrain quiz, literally. What do you do as a viewer?
Do you figure out the answers to questions posed to the protagonist, like you would if you were watching an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Or do you wonder if the filmmaker has thought you to be Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory? Kamali from Nadukkaveri is capable of keeping your mind occupied with such thoughts, pulling you away from the nothingness that is unfolding on the screen.
Explained in a nutshell, the film by Rajasekar Duraisamy is an unapologetic, feature-length advertisement for the IITs.
‘Kamali from Nadukkaveri’
- Director: Rajasekar Duraisamy
- Cast: Anandhi, Prathap Pothen, Rohit Saraf, Imman Annachi, Azhagam Perumal
- Storyline: A girl puts in the hard yards to enter an esteemed institution and meet the boy of her dreams.
It shows mild promise when the credits begin; we see a naughty school girl named Kamali (Anandhi, who ever so carefully treads the fine line between loosu ponnu and an actual carefree girl) whose job it is to rewrite the thathuvam that retired professor Arivudainambi (Prathap Pothen) scribbles onto the compound wall of his house every morning, landing Kamali in Nambi’s bad books.
Now if simple story lines were the need of the hour, the film could have very well explored the evolution of a relationship between Nambi and Kamali — easily the film’s two strongly-written characters. Instead, it is content to use it as a mere launch pad to meander into a plot that leaves a dull taste.
Imagination maybe lacking, but inspiration isn’t… since Kamali falls in love with a Class XII topper, Ashwin (Rohit Saraf), whom she happens to watch on TV. Remember Kadhal Kottai? Except, in this story, the romance is one-sided. And oh, if you had forgotten, Devayani’s character in Kadhal Kottai was named Kamali, too.
What we know about Rajasekar’s Kamali is that she hails from a town many hundred miles removed from Chennai, and so getting into an IIT, as the topper Ashwin wants to, seems out of reach. Nambi steps in to help and Kamali makes it to IIT-Madras.
Since there hasn’t been a campus film — with its spirit in the right place — in Tamil cinema in an eternity (come to think of it, there is very little representation of ‘2K kids’ on the big screen), it would have been apt for the filmmaker Rajasekar to, perhaps, explore aspects of “big city culture shock” that a small town girl is likely to face.
But, he ties a fruitless romantic angle to drag Kamali along and what it instead does is generate relentless boredom.
Kamali is called “country girl” a dozen times; defeated, she returns home but an incident spurs her on and she becomes the re-energised Kamali… who wins a quiz competition in the end. Please note, said competition is an 15-minute inter-IIT contest and not, as mentioned before, a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire type programme!
We digress. So we have a campus, but there is no campus romance in the mould of, say, a GVM film. Oh, ignore the mould… Rajasekar’s protagonist tosses her love in the trash to focus on her studies. Subliminal messaging is plentiful in Kamali from Nadukkaveri, but how one perceives it depends on an individual’s socio-political mindset. But the actual problem is not that: it is the lack of entertainment.
Can subjects following a so-called ‘motivational’ storyline deliver high on entertainment? It depends where the filmmaker draws inspiration from.
Take farming, for instance. If a filmmaker watched the farmers’ protest in Delhi’s borders with a keen eye, goes on to notice a story about fathers and sons occupying opposite ends of the barricades put up by the Government, and thought that was dramatic — and hence entertaining — we won’t be grieving with films like Bhoomi that use simplistic plots and end up doing more harm to the cause than help.
Kamali from Nadukkaveri doesn’t belong in Bhoomi’s class of films; it just is plain and vanilla. It is a made-for-television film, perhaps.
Films made for the big screen cannot compromise on entertainment, and no, that does not mean a package of four songs and five fights. If you need an example, look no further than Slumdog Millionaire: it is also the story of a lovelorn, underprivileged protagonist chasing after their dream. And hey, it has a quiz show too!