Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kandukondain Kandukondain, or, Sense? What's That?


I'm not sure why it says "A Bollywood Adaptation" there. Kandukondain Kandukondain, (rendered as I Have Seen It in the subtitles but I Have Found It on the DVD cover, as you see), is my second non-Hindi Indian film, and it was a great introduction to Tamil cinema. Of course, any adaptation of Jane Austen's work is probably going to make me happy, so it already had an advantage. I've heard many people rave about this as one of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's best performances, and I confess that curiosity to see such a sight is what led me to add the movie to my queue in the first place. However, there's much more to enjoy about this movie than the inevitable eye candy Ms. Rai Bachchan provides.


Mahalakshmi (Sridivya) has a problem. Even though she displeased her father by marrying to disoblige her family, as the old phrase has it, she now lives in her childhood home, caring for her father after a stroke. Her three daughters, Sowmiya (Tabu, in the "Elinor" role), Meenu (Aishwarya, or "Marianne"), and somebody played by Shamli but whose name I can't recall, which I guess is appropriate considering the youngest daughter has such a minor role in Sense and Sensibility, live with her. That isn't her problem, though; her problem is that Sowmiya has garnered an unfair reputation as a bad-luck charm since her first fiance died during their engagement. Now she's unable to find another prospective bridegroom--until the American-educated Manohar (Ajith Kumar) comes into town to scout locations for a film shoot.

I've honestly never seen Tabu so lovely as she is in this song, "Yenna Solla."

Mahalakshmi also is afflicted with Meenu's romanticism, which insists upon the younger, gorgeous sister only entering into a love match. Meenu's idealism squashes any hopes their somewhat older neighbor, retired Major Bala (Mammooty) might hold in her direction, especially when poetic businessman Srikanth (Abbas) shows up spouting love rhymes in her direction.

I'm struggling to find the right place to begin raving about this movie, but... Oh, fine, here's good enough. The performances! The soundtrack! The storyline! They rock!

That's not enough for you? You want details? Hmph. All right, but I can't rave specifically without a really big spoiler--which won't be a spoiler if you've read the book. This really is the best performance I've seen from Aishwarya so far; she's perfectly natural as the young, impulsive Meenakshi and adorably unstylized. Tabu, no surprise, delightfully conveys the battle between giving in to Sowmiya's feelings for Manohar and her reluctance to have her heart broken again. Ajith is really cute as the wannabe director casting lures in Sowmiya's direction, almost against her will. It looked (and sounded) like they were all dubbed, however; it sounded like Telugu? Does that make any sense? Definitely their lines were dubbed in something other than Tamil because nothing matched and at times they sounded like they were standing in an echo chamber.

However, it's Mammooty who totally stole my heart. The scene (spoiler!!!) wherein Meenu lets her feelings for Major Bala be known and he snaps at her to "Shut up!" while dizzily staggering from the room, afraid to hope his dreams have come true, made me burst into a true Barsaat Cry (thanks Rum for the excellent term!) and throw my couch pillow at the screen because how dare any middle-aged mustachioed hairyman be so freakin' adorable??!!!

The story is pretty loosely based on the book; I particularly enjoyed how the women learned to stand on their own feet and demanded to be valued for themselves, not how much their dowry would bring--a (good) contrast to Austen's heroines made possible by its modern setting. I also liked that Meenu's feelings for Major Bala didn't seem to be her settling for "second best" in her mind, but coming to value steady, mature love that's left unchanged by circumstances. That plot point's always bugged me about Austen's novel. The subtitles were severely lacking, but I learned to ignore it.

The guys also get along well, from the beginning, which is very true to the book:

"Their resemblance in good principles and good sense, in disposition and manner of thinking, would probably have been sufficient to unite them in friendship, without any other attraction ; but their being in love with two sisters, and two sisters fond of each other, made that mutual regard inevitable and immediate, which might otherwise have waited the effect of time and judgment."

The soundtrack is amazing, although the last track, "Smayiyai," could have been cut without harming the story at all. The picturizations of "Suttum Vizhi," "Yenna Solla," and the title track are all large exercises in WTFness, especially when Aishwarya's surrounded by groups of masked or otherwise disguised dancers--the poet's face in particular made me want to run screaming from the room. "Yenna Solla," at least, is pretty, though I couldn't get who the screaming people with big sticks were supposed to be. The forces holding them apart? Peasants who worried he might steal their water supply for the day? Railroad employees trying to get him off the tracks before the train came?

Of course, that's nothing on the weird medieval setting of "Kandukondain," complete with white actors dressed up like half-assed knights. (I always have to laugh when I see gora people in these things; you just know they had bar conversation for at least a month after the experience.)

All weirdness aside, I absolutely love this film; it's worth every penny. But--ha!--I can't leave you without getting to see my favorite song on the soundtrack. Enjoy!

28 comments:

  1. Mamooty is a famous Malayalam actor who has won the National Award several times.

    Pls see his malayalayam movies.

    He also acted in some tamil movies like Mani Ratnam's Nayakan and Balachander's Aaiyagan

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  2. They are ALL so cute! I loved Abbas despite his character, cos I just love him anyways, Mammooty was a cute bear, and Siddharth- eeeeeeeh. And of course the ladies were utterly uttery amazing. Cannot get over tabu and Siddharth's song together :)

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  3. It's been a while since I've seen this movie. I feel like watching it again! Thanks for the memories. I do agree it's one of Aish's best. It's ironic cause one of her other films that I think is her best is the Bengali film, Choker Bali

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  4. Anonymous: Thanks for clearing that up for me; I'd never heard of him before watching KK. Do you have any recommendations for Malayalam movies?

    Shweta: Abbas was super cute, and I liked that they didn't demonize him. He was a bit of a shyster but they did a good job showing the pressures he succumbed to in the end. As for Siddharth... was he in this? I thought I'd recognize him after Bommarillu! The desert song was awesome. I think I watched it four times!

    Nicki: I'll definitely be watching it again. I've got Chokher Bali in my queue but I've heard it's kind of dark so I'm not in a hurry to watch it. Still, lots of people have recommended it so I'm sure I'll watch it.

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  5. Haven't seen this movie in years, but I remember really liking it. It's so weird in a good way!

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  6. Ahh I meant Ajith- I'm so bad w/ names :D In any case, all cute boys look the same (im so so wrong I know :B )

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  7. This is a nice film, glad you liked it too :-)

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  8. Its such a great movie! I was so impressed with Aishwarya (Tabu's good performance wasnt unexpected) especially in that scene with the Major where she tels him about her feelings!

    Mamooty has done some Hindi films, too (I recall something with Jayaprada, loooong ago) and he was great there.

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  9. Ajnabi,

    I've been wanting to watch this movie for FOREVER! Now I'm definitely going to make it sooner rather than later :)

    You make it sound so...amazing...which I'm sure it is!!!

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  10. Andromache--the picturizations are definitely bizarre, especially when contrasted with the slightly grim realism of the rest of the film. I really liked it too (guess you can see that, LOL).

    Shweta--Maybe I can use your argument on my husband. "But, baby, all cute boys look the same! You look just like Hrithik anyway so why are you jealous?" ;-)

    Memsaab: Yeah, I totally liked it. My Christmas budget didn't need me to watch the film just now. LOL

    Bollyviewer: that scene during her confession made me totally teary-eyed... Oh, okay I bawled. ;-p But I also liked how naturally she bickered with him. I think she's better at acting in Tamil. I've *got* to see more Mammooty.

    Nida: It is totally amazing, though not without its flaws (the WTF picturizations, the sound quality, etc.). The version I got from Netflix, with the English title on the cover, had decent subtitles, but I've heard the one with the Tamil-only cover has a bad two-sentence lag between the dialogue and subtitles. Can't wait to read your take on it!

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  11. Reasons I like this: 1) Tabu...N) Tabu =) No, I really enjoyed this overall, review and film. Saw it a a while ago, and remember thinking it all and they all fit so well together!

    Have you seen anything from the South Indian industries other than this and Bommarillu? I haven't, and could use a recommendation or two besides Ghajini, which I'm saving for December 26 :)

    Cheers!

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  12. Hi Bollywood Fan! Tabu was pretty luminous, but that wasn't a surprise. :-) No, I haven't seen any other southies, although I'll be watching some soon as they creep up my queue--mostly Siddharth and/or Genelia films since they were the only two I recognized. LOL I'll be sure to post about them once I do see them, though.

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  13. Great review. This is one of my favorite Tamil movie with two of my favorite actresses Tabu and Aishwarya. Ash should do more Tamil and Bengali movies since they bring out the best in her. And Tabu should just do more movies in general. lol

    I loved Mamooty and Bala. They were hilarious together.

    I usual recommend this movie to any one interested in seeing their first Tamil movie.

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  14. Anonymous, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Aishwarya--I remember her mentioning in one of her B&P interviews that each language requires different body language as well; if that's so then I'd guess she's more comfortable in Tamil than Hindi. Tabu, of course, is just awesome--she should totally do more movies but it's hard to find her sometimes!

    Mammooty and--is Bala the guy who plays his friend/brother? Those two were seriously funny; great comedic timing on both their parts.

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  15. I was told that Aishwarya's Tamil was dubbed (to me it sounded like her voice, so I am not totally convinced!), so I guess half the credit for her "acting" goes to the voice. But her performance is usually good with a good director. Check out her two movies with Rituparna Ghosh (Chokher Bali and Raincoat) - she is great there and of course in the Mani Ratnam ones.

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  16. Thanks for the post ajnabi. I loved this film! Mammootty is HOT! Yes ajnabi, men can continue to be hot into middle age and beyond. ;) I love playback singer Chitra’s voice, and did a couple mini-post on the film. My favorite song was “Engae Enathu Kavithai”

    http://bollywoodfoodclub.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/video-of-the-day-engae-enathu-kavithai-from-kandukondain-kandukondain-200/

    And I agree with bollyviewer that Aish in Chokher Bali and Raincoat does a great job. I think that Aish's "bummer girl" mode seems to appeal to NRIs and Indians, while we gori Americans tend to be more satisfied with any form of Aish. :) OK, I'm just speaking for myself, don't want to represent ALL gori American fans.

    All the best!
    Sita-ji

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  17. Hi Ajnabi

    I will try and post the names of some really good Mamooty malayalam movies for you sometime soon.

    Since you and a few others are interested in watching good South Indian movies I can recommend - Happy Days (Telugu), Anand (Telugu) both made by a young and successful film maker Shekhar Kammula. Siddarth and Genelia acted in the tamil movie "Boys"

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  18. I would like to make a correction to my earlier comment. Mamooty acted in Mani Ratnam's tamil movie "Dalapati" not Nayakan (Kamala Hasan was the hero). Dalapati also had Rajnikanth and Aravind Swamy.

    Mamooty did a good job in Dalapati

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  19. Adaab, Sita-ji! I agree that middle-aged men can be totally hot (my dear husband and I aren't too far from those years ourselves!) but I don't usually expect them to be all adorable like General Bala. I just wanted to hug him and squeeze him and call him George.

    Anonymous: Is Dalapati any good? I've got Happy Days and Boys in my queue already; I'll move them closer to the top.

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  20. Yes Dalapati is good for Mamooty and Rajnikanth plus Mani Ratnam's direction (the guy who made dil se, alaipayuthey - tamil version of saathiya, Mouna Ragam, Guru and many more good movies)

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  21. Ajnabi

    Please see Mamooty in Balachander's tamil movie "Aaigan". It is the story of three girls (Geeta, Bhanupriya and Madhu) falling for a school pass hotelier (Mamooty). It is a very well made movie. Mamooty is really good. Plus for once you have a movie where women have a major role in the story.

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  22. ajnabi,
    Netflix is often really messed up with finding actors and movies. The only Mamootty I could find were Basha: The Boss (2006);Sau Jhooth Ek Sach (2004);Karmegam (2002);Junior Senior (2002);Aanandam (2001); and Bhoothakkannadi: Malayalam (2000) Magnifying Glass. And of course I tried the various spellings of his name. Kandukonden Kandukonden was listed in another area, you know how that is at Netflix, then you click on his name there and no other movies come up. Anyway, did you find Dalapati there @ Netflix? And speaking of Ratman, I recommend "A Peck on the Cheek" (2002) which is at Netflix, no Mammootty, but you can settle on Madhavan I'm sure. ;) It's a beautiful movie, but like many of Ratman's, it's also very sad. Like anonymous said, Aasigan sounds great, I hope I can find it.
    All the best,
    Sita-ji

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  23. I remember seeing this movie and enjoying it a great deal, I love all the songs but most especially Kannamoochi which you have shared here....

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  24. Anonymous--I'm assuming both of the anonymous comments are the same person--thank you so much for the recommendations! I really want to check out Aaigan; I hope I can find it!

    Hi Sita-ji! At least with Indian films Netflix's internal search engines leave much to be desired. I haven't had a chance to find Dalapati or even look yet. :-( Stupid life and the way it interferes with my movie viewing! I've heard A Peck on the Cheek is really really good. I'll have to add it to the ever-increasing line!

    Hi Reviewer! Yes, Kannamoochi is fantastic; Yenna Solla ran a close second as far as my favorites go but the picturization was so strange that it fell a little in the rankings. ;-)

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  25. Hi Ajnabi

    Yes both comments were from me.

    A few Mani Ratnam tamil movies to enjoy include - Mounaragam, Nayakan, Agni Nakshatram (Kartik a handsome 80s tamil actor & Aravind Swamy), Roja, Dalapati, Kannathil Muthammittar (ie peck on the cheek), Alai Payuthey (original tamil version of Saathiya and much much better. Anjali.

    Another old tamil movie to enjoy is "Nenanja thai killa dai" - this was Suhasini's first movie (Mani Ratnam's wife) with Mohan and Pratap Pothan.

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  26. Hi anonymous! I just realized I missed your last comment. I've heard lots of people rave about A Peck on the Cheek and Alai Payuthey. I think I found Anjali today when I was searching for southies (that sounds like a movie title).

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  27. I love this movie, the songs are wonderful, the cast is brilliant. I prefer Mohanlal to Mamooty (At least as much as a I can, living in Bombay), but he is one of the best actors in Malayalam cinema. Do watch Amaram (1991), his is excellent in it.While you are at it, do check out Mohanlal's Bharatam (1991), Vanaprastham (1999), Chitram (1988), Lal Salam (1990). The malayalam film industry churns out good films often - and I am not partial at all ;)Seen any Ray films?

    Back to KK, I actually liked the way Suttum Vizi was shot, of course, its bizarre, but has a very dreamlike quality to it, the way they seem to be in a bubble, with chubby boy spouting poetry(the lyrics are lovely).

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  28. Hi Supriya! Mammootty is wonderful; it's a pity that so few of his movies have made it to Netflix but I'm just going to have to buy a few blind. I haven't seen any Ray films, but I would love to expand my filmi education... It's very hard to find Malayalam films in the States!

    "Suttum Vizhi" is a lovely song, but I still can't get over the picturization! LOL It doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, though.

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