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Kanaa Movie Review: With Kanaa, Arunraja Kamaraj, who makes his debut as a director, hits two birds in one stone. On one hand, he gives us a sports movie about an underdog winning against odds. And on the other, he gives us a message movie that talks about the importance of farming. This might seem like a weird crossover, especially when the underdog angle itself has women empowerment as a message. But, sweet surprise! The director manages to pull this off quite convincingly. In fact, it is this mashup of genres that sets Kanaa apart from other sports dramas.
Right from the opening scene, Arunraja gives equal importance to both these conflicts in his story and often resorts to cross-cutting between the two parallel plots, which beautifully merge at the climax to deliver an effective punch. The film begins with a local cricket match that gets interrupted after the two teams get into a fight. We are then told the story of Kausalya aka Kausi (Aishwarya Rajesh) and her father Murugesan (Sathyaraj), a farmer. The latter is so mad about cricket that he is interested in watching a match than crying over his father’s death. But he breaks down over India losing a cricket match, and Kausi, who sees this, resolves within herself to become a cricket player and win matches to make her father happy.
We see Kausi’s efforts to join the local cricket team and the challenges she faces to do so. First, her mother is dead-set against this as she believes cricket isn’t a woman’s game. Then, Kausi has to gain the confidence of the male players. But then, tongues start wagging in the village, with lecherous men trying to justify their actions, putting a huge question mark over her dream. Arunraja gives us scenes that are relatable and makes us root for Kausi.
Meanwhile, Murugesan faces the problems that most farmers face these days – drought and poor crop yield that makes it difficult to repay loans. We see these two characters facing setbacks around the same time. The parallel narration, aided by Ruben’s deft editing, gives the film a constant rush.
But there are times when the film gets a bit indulgent. Like the romantic track, involving Murali (Dharshan), a travels company operator in the village. Then there are the portions involving cricket coach Nelson Dilipkumar (Sivakarthikeyan), which seem straight out of Chak De India. And this also takes the focus away from Kousi for a while. To his credit, Arunraja does make us ignore such missteps with some sparkling dialogues. Sample: Indha pass fail ellaam sambathikkaravangalukku dhaan… Saadhikkaravangalukku illa.
And the performances of the principal actors are splendid. Aishwarya Rajesh, who appears sans makeup in most of the scenes, makes us buy Kausi and breathes life into the role while Sathyaraj captures the integrity of an emotional farmer. In an extended cameo, Sivakarthikeyan, who is also the film’s producer, comes up with an effective star turn.
And Arunraja gives us a thrilling cricket match in the end, with a bravura speech that Kausi makes about farmers, which ensures that we leave the theatre satisfied.