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.
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.
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!