Tamil Reviews

Adhe Kangal: An Engaging Mystery Where Nothing Is What It Seems To Be

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If AC Tirulokchandar’s Adhe Kangal (1967) is anything to go by, Rohin Venkatesan’s 2017 version is quite simply, a mystery. Not that of murders, though. A few minutes into this CV Kumar production, there’s a sense of disappointment. A visually-challenged chef (Kalaiyarasan as Varun), a journalist (Janani Iyer as Sadhana) who writes about him. Some light banter, there. Journalist likes chef, but it remains unrequited. Chef has a unique way of identifying people – by their smell. So when Deepa (Shivada Nair) – styled well in contrast to the flirtatious Sadhana – revisits the restaurant requesting food for the homeless, chef identifies her by her deodorant. Nivea thaane? Creepy, but Deepa is thrilled that the chef is able to tell. And right there, I’m quite taken by the unique treatment of Varun as a visually-challenged person – there’s no Mysskin-like (think Pisaasu) poignant score; Varun is as self-reliant as can be – and that quirk of his probably exists to drive home his super-human sense of perception – which is not uncommon among the blind. Varun is not treated as a hero – a character with disability – rather, he’s a character with a disability that is enabling. When his mother despairs that he’s difficult to live with – in the way that mothers often do – I sit up, interested. This really isn’t how a character with disability is usually treated; they’re revered, doted on, with the background score on a set scale – sad, sympathetic, or a mixture of both.

When several of Varun’s customers shoot a video of him chopping vegetables, resigned and expressionless – to make one of those viral clips – I actually laugh.

Soon, Varun and Deepa are in love. But this cannot be, I think. Deepa – too prim for her own good, and ridden with those cloyingly sweet traits of a Tamil heroine just cannot be a CV Kumar lead. But she is. Debt-ridden, she graciously accepts Varun’s offer to bail her out. And then, Varun meets with an accident. He regains his vision – but not in the get-hit-on-the-head-and-gain-memory kind of filmy occurrence; there is a plausible explanation offered for blindness, and subsequent recovery. Varun is distraught that he couldn’t help Deepa, looks for her in vain, and eventually decides to marry Sadhana (who’s just totally cool).

And when Deepa’s father appears out of the blue, right before the wedding, I wonder for the second time that afternoon: where’s the …offbeat-ness that I’ve come to associate with Thirukumaran Entertainment? As if in answer, the tale begins in earnest when Varun spots a news item about Deepa’s father. The trail soon leads him to a blind artist with a mystery girlfriend. A mystery girlfriend who was debt-ridden. A mystery girlfriend who seems to have vanished without a trace. Director Rohin Venkatesan had just lulled the audience into a false sense of complacency. His typical characterizations were a ruse. All of a sudden, nobody in the movie is what they seem – save the leads. The transition as smooth and abrupt as can be – enough to give pause, to revisit those too-regular-to-be-true moments. Deepa is a CV Kumar heroine, after all. So is Sadhana, who totally owns her role; a lovely, well-written one at that. Drop the act, she says breezily, when Varun, in a show of chivalry during their courtship, pulls out a chair for her. He had, after all, been quite rude to her in the past, to the point of calling her a ‘room-freshener’. What’s with the heightened olfactory sensitivity, anyway?

Much later, I wonder why this little quirk of Varun’s is never satisfactorily engaged to be a part of the tale. In hindsight though, that would have been a little too pulpy – and a little too regular for CV Kumar.

*****

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