Starring Udhayanidhi Stalin and directed by Mu Maran, this murder mystery manages to be acrobatically convoluted, but doesn’t offer a single plot-twist worth its term.

Kannai Nambathey review: This whodunnit falls flat even before take-offCourtesy/Saregama
Flix Review Friday, March 17, 2023 - 19:24
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If every conceivable coincidence happened in a story for two and a half hours, would it still merit being called a thriller film? That’s what I was left wondering while watching Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Kannai Nambathey directed by Mu Maran. This murder mystery manages to be acrobatically convoluted, but doesn’t offer a single plot-twist worth the term. After playing restrained characters in two of his latest movies, Nenjukku Needhi and Kalaga Thalaivan, Udhayanidhi attempts to bring back his boy-next-door affability and comic side from his earlier movies such as Oru Kal Oru Kannadi. But the actor-politician just looks lost in his own film, possibly confused, like we are, by the tortuous script. 

Arun (Udhayanidhi) finds himself framed for murders he has no part in, and the real culprit is closer home than he thinks. Some claims about the interconnectedness of things are thrown in to explain away the series of implausible coincidences. To weigh the story down even more is a love track that, in typical Kollywood style, has little impact. Arun teams up with his new flatmate, Somu (Prasanna) to figure out who is framing him, with blackmailers, twins separated when young, a pharmaceutical billionaire-turned-criminal, and the police hot on their heels. Added to this is the sexual and bodily exploitation of vulnerable women and girls. Maybe script writers should try summarising the plot in a few sentences before making the film like I just did, so they can realise early enough how ridiculous their stories sound. 

Also, perhaps, Udhayanidhi should stick to roles like in his previous two films. He seems to do well as such characters, even if both the films had multiple drawbacks. In Kannai Nambathey, it’s hard to accept that Arun has much of a personality. He’s buffeted along wherever the script goes, without us feeling much empathy for him. Given the number of times he hangs up on his girlfriend, refusing to engage with her about his predicament, you’d think – quite correctly – that Kollywood really doesn’t know how to handle the mandatory romance track, regardless of the film’s genre. Athmika, as Arun’s love interest, Dhivya, doesn’t have much to do except exist. 

Prasanna aims for the air of a mysterious and sinister new figure in Arun’s life, but he ultimately turns into a spoof of his own role. Bhumika Chawla seems to have been written with the express purpose of confusing us, but not in a way that makes the story compelling. Rather, her character appears to have been pulled from the top five stereotypical tropes of would-be thrillers. 

Srikanth as the evil pharmaceutical billionaire is in a word laughable. Comedian Satish appears for about the first fifteen minutes, to provide his brand of humour, before inexplicably disappearing from the story. It’s almost as if the director simply put together a basic set of elements and hoped for the best,  instead of determining a formula to make his story engaging. What we’re left with is a promise of a thrilling who-dunnit that just turns utterly aggravating. 

To that one audience member who mused aloud, while exiting the theatre, “The background music was quite racy, not much else to say about the movie,” I hear you. 

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