Rajiv Menon started as an ad filmmaker and continues to be one – despite directing movies like Kandukondein Kandukondein. But is it any good?
MENON began eyeing the big screen when he shot the brilliantly beautiful Bombay for Mani Ratnam and obviously thought he could do better. Well, we all know he couldn’t.
His first film, Minsara Kanavugal (even more atrocious as the dubbed Sapnay), was a self-indulgent cotton candy of riotous colours, inducing diabetes in the most hardy of cinemagoers. A lot of money sank with that first effort, but maybe it was (if you feel particularly generous) well spent, because Rajiv got a grip on himself and came up with Kandukondein Kandukondein (KK).
It does have a story far less ludicrous than his last and a cast of gorgeous actors. KK (or I Have Found It) begins somewhere in the utopian interiors of rural Tamil Nadu at an exquisite mansion (MAM Ramaswamy Chettiar’s ancestral home in Karaikudi, used for the first time in a movie and to splendid effect).
In it live a family with an invalid grandpa who keeps trying to communicate that the women will lose the house and have to leave with whatever they can carry (happily enough it doesn’t affect their wardrobe changes).
Soon the mother and her three daughters (Tabu as cursed Soumya whose potential husbands meet sticky ends, Aishwarya as Meenakshi waiting to be swept off her feet – and is in the unbelievable Abbas, and a third girl who is still an irrelevant bespectacled preteen) are left homeless.
By now Ajith (an unappreciated director – shades of something autobiographical here, Rajiv?), Mamooty (a legless war veteran who nurses a secret longing for the former Miss World), and Abbas (the least convincing as a can’t-make-up-his-mind-whether-to-be-good-or-bad beau for a smitten Meenakshi) have made their dashing appearances. Before you can say break-for-popcorn, we’ve been transported to pretty village locales, Scotland and Egypt, for all those nicely choreographed and colour co-ordinated songs with Rajiv’s impeccable aesthetics).
The story then shifts to capricious Chennai where the transition from unpaid bills to a Keshav Dugar flat on Greenways Road (from pretty clothes to even prettier clothes and from unrequited love to the unending variety) is as smooth as silk.
Ajith has a very competent and pleasant screen-presence, Mamooty looks strangely discomfited (must be all that substance submerged under so much style) while Srividya brings glory to her chosen oeuvre by doing so much with the little that she got. Never has Indian apparel looked as fashionably exquisite as it does on the slender, frequently dancing frame of the redoubtable Miss Rai – and only a Tabu could have made an impression (which she certainly does) with a role so lacking in bombastic histrionics that she makes the shadows look cool. A R Rehman’s music serves as a tempting appetiser.
All said and done its difficult to find fault with cotton candy that melts so appetisingly in the mouth … but when you want a sumptuous meal all it leaves you with is a unsatisfyingly vague sweet memory. But the good news is that Rajiv Menon is getting better all the time.