Cinematographer turned director, Manikandan has become a household name after his ‘Kaaka Muttai’ went on to emerge an internationally acclaimed little gem which also turned a crowd favorite commercially. ‘KuttrameThandanai’ is actually Manikandan’s debut film, which proves he is no flash in the pan, but a director of immense talent who deserves an all round applause for giving a brilliantly crafted realistic thriller.
Vidharth plays Ravichandran, a credit card collection agent who has a rare eye disease called tunnel vision, that is, he can only see what is straight ahead of him as if looking through a tunnel or telescope to put it more simply. His colleague played by Pooja Devariya is a simple girl and the sole bread earner of her family who has a soft corner for him. Vidharth has the habit of watching from his balcony the girl (Aishwarya Rajesh) who lives on the ground floor alone. She is often found speaking to a boy Arun and an elderly man Rahman also visits her house often. As the hero’s vision gets worse, he consults a doctor who says the only way is to go for an eye transplant which would cost 3.5 lakhs. One morning Vidharth sees Rahman going into the house of Aiswarya Rajesh and coming out and acting suspiciously and goes down to see what is wrong. Rahman lets him in and locks the doors and shows the lifeless body of Aishwarya in a pool of blood and claims that he found her in the state when he came in. Vidharth refuses to believe him and Rahman offers him money to not reveal his presence and gives him his card. The police arrive and are perplexed as there are no witnesses or evidence and further since the girl is an orphan there is nobody to care about her case. A conscience stricken Vidharth goes to the police station and informs seeing the other boy Arun coming out of Aishwarya’s house after an argument who is already a suspect. Vidharth then starts blackmailing Rahman for money which he needs for his eye operation as the hospital also cheat him demanding more money. The other party also contacts Vidharth offering bribes. What happens next forms a riveting screenplay that builds up to a brilliant climax where all the loose ends are tied up and the title justified.
Vidharth as the common man fighting a rare disease and using the murder of his neighbor to his advantage is simply outstanding and this film has rediscovered him as an actor. He uses his body language more than anything to express his introvert nature, the angst of losing his vision, the guilt of using the murder and also the way he grows more and more confident as a blackmailer. If Pooja Devariya was flawless as the bold, modern girl in ‘Iraivi’, here she has outdone herself as the simple lower middle class girl whose minute expressions and reactions are a delight to watch. It is a million dollar question if any mainstream heroine would be willing to do the role that Aishwarya Rajesh has done and kudos to her for bringing to life the confused early twenties girl who gets caught in multiple relationships resulting in a gory end. Rahman as the rich businessman who succumbs to the charms of his secretary and Guru Somasundaram of ‘Joker’ fame as the lawyer who negotiates with the hero ,Marimuthu as the close to life sub-inspector and Pasi Sathya as the ironing lady are perfectly cast. There is also Nassar playing a character who is the voice of concience for the hero.
The King of background music Illayaraja is in his elements and has cleverly punctuated his little symphonies with silence. Anu Charan’s editing is so seamless that you get the feeling of not watching a film but as if transported into it. Writers Manikandan and Anand Annamalai have come up with a near flawless script which on the surface is a thrilling murder mystery, but deeper down probes the common man’s selfishness which drives everyone to commit crimes and seemingly escape the law until a higher justice catches up. Manikandan the cinematographer competes with the director Manikandan in frame to frame to sculpt this celluloid gem.
On the downside, some may complain about the pace, but it is not a flaw but rather a necessity as the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist who is challenged. The police investigation seems to be rather hurried and it is questionable whether they will overlook the obvious as far as the murderer is concerned.
Verdict : ‘Kuttrame Thandani’ is another gem that elevates Tamil cinema to a higher level and in one phrase Don’t miss it.