Within its runtime of just over two hours, Kaanekkaane keeps us on the edge, for the most part, unable to choose which of the characters should triumph.

Kaanekkaane review Tovino Aishwarya and Suraj are terrific in a taut thriller
Flix Review Friday, September 17, 2021 - 15:46
Worth a watch

Films with heroes and villains neatly cast in two boxes are easy to love or hate. Then we also have the occasional film where we have a flawed hero, but he's still a hero. Rarer still are films where characters appear as ordinary people who perform despicable acts but these are acts that you suspect a dark part in your brain may be able to process, even accept.

After Uyare, Manu Ashokan and Bobby-Sanjay have come together to give us a difficult to digest thriller, Kaanekkaane. It translates to 'As I watch,' and as the film progresses, the sinister meaning behind it unfolds by the minute. Sneha (Aishwarya Lekshmi) opens the door to Paul Mathai (Suraj Venjaramoodu) and says 'papa' in recognition. She's pregnant but there's no warmth between the two. The silences are awkward. You work out the relationship slowly. She is Allen's (Tovino Thomas) current wife while Paul is the father of his deceased wife, Sherin (a lovely Shruti Ramachandran). Allen and Sneha look the picture of a happy couple; Sneha is a diligent mom to Kuttu, Allen's son from his previous marriage, and though Paul sticks out like a sore thumb, even he has to acknowledge that everything looks as perfect as it can get.

But Paul, obsessed with demanding justice for his late daughter, cannot let it go. The dependable Suraj Venjaramoodu is terrific as the grieving father. The shadows under his eyes, his hesitant manner and his withdrawn expressions reflect the inner demons that he's battling. He has a hunch about what happened, and when the evidence leads him to believe that there's more to the story than what meets the eye, he becomes relentless.

Aishwarya Lekshmi is as classy as ever. Considering 'the other woman' has always been villainised on screen, Aishwarya plays Sneha with so much honesty that you empathise with her position. She makes Sneha vulnerable, human. Tovino's is the hardest role of the lot. You want to dislike him instantly but the actor manages to push us into an uncomfortable place of confusion. There's a scene when Sneha and Allen are arguing, and the camera moves from the kitchen to the drawing room, showing Allen framed within a box. It signifies his guilt but is also perhaps a call to the viewer to look beyond such a neat categorisation.

Watch: Trailer of Kaanekkaane 

Within its taut runtime of just over two hours, Kaanekkaane keeps us on the edge, for the most part, unable to choose which of the characters should triumph. The final act, however, becomes hyperbolic, forcing a happy ending on the viewer. The layered characters — messy, inconsistent, twisted, selfish —  and the story arc would have allowed for a more evolved, open ending that reflects reality and all the complications that come with it. The background score, too, builds the suspense beautifully until the final act, inserting pinpricks of doubt and mistrust in us. But as the film moves to its conclusion, it becomes too rousing, too eager to underline the messaging. You also cannot help but think that Sherin gets a raw deal in this show of human magnanimity. It reminded me of Anweshanam, where yet again, the victim's tragedy recedes to the background as the living forge a new understanding among themselves. It's not that this doesn't happen in real life but should it be portrayed as a desirable ending, is the question.

That said, Kaanekkaane is certainly among the better thrillers to have come out of Malayalam cinema in recent times. You may hate it if you ask whether the characters were right or wrong. But if you ask instead, if their actions seem plausible and human, you may like it for what it is.

The film is now playing on SonyLIV.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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