Tamil movie Kathikappal (Knife-Boat) directed by Dinesh Selvaraj, fresh out of ace director Mani Ratnam's stable, leaves you pretty disappointed.
You'd think a movie with a name as different as this one ought to be promising, and it is, in the beginning as the narrative begins in August 1988. Five police officers, Chandrabose (introducing composer Chandrabose for the first time as a villain), Jayaprakash, Thennavan, Sakthivel and Vinodhkumar are sent on a mission to track down the evil Veerayyan, who kidnapped Minister Nagendran and is wreaking havoc in the jungles of Kodaikkanal.
(Veerayyan, naturally, has a bushy moustache and wears green fatigues -- but is somehow, remarkably devoid of any cohorts). The police officers bungle the job and make one last ditch attempt to bring Veerayyan dead or alive. As it happens, they bring him dead. An innocent doctor Parivallal (Prem) is also killed in the attempt, and the case is closed.
Cut to 2008, when Parivallal's grieving widow Saaral Jeevajyothi (Meera Vasudevan) complete with shawls, grey streaks in her hair and a suitably sorrowful mien lives with just one little girl Kabini, in a house without even electricity(!). She is conducting the death rituals of her husband when a panting youngster arrives and gobbles up the offerings meant for the dead doctor.
Asked what the heck he's up to, Joshua Prakash (V N Anoop Kumar) gives a shattering answer: he's Dr Parivallal, re-incarnated. Followed hot-foot by his wife Mallika (Purnitha) and her brother, he explains that he's known about his previous birth for 12 years, and has been waiting to join his estranged wife all this time. His perfect recollections of Kodaikkanal and its inhabitants baffle many; until Parivallal's brother (Thalaivasal Vijay) a psychiatrist himself, confirms (!) that Joshua is, indeed, Parivallal.
So far, so good. There's a premise (even if it's been done to death); there's suspense, the faint scent of mystery and pleasurable anticipation as to what follows.
And then it all falls disappointingly flat.
You yearn for a veteran script-writer who could have closed the gaping craters in this good story, and made it watchable fare.
Anoop Kumar (his previous appearance was in Vattaram) makes a lot of faces, screams and tries to play the part of a man who meets his wife in his next birth. If only he didn't have to dance so much for Sri Sai's silly item numbers which have no place at all in this movie. And after a point, his scruffy face makes you want to shake him out of misery.
Meera Vasudevan looks serious and grave all the time; her sudden transformation from sari-clad madam to slacks-wearing, gun-toting miss is startling and hilarious. Where did she learn to shoot like that?
Prem appears very briefly, and wrings a sympathetic twinge but his logic in leaving behind his wife in a dangerous forest full of assassins, as he drives Veerayyan to safety is the height of absurdity. Purnitha (of Inba fame) looks cute but you're really confused for a while about what she's dong in the movie.
The five police officers shake and quake like jellies when confronted with their enemy; giggle and shriek like the villains of the 60s when they're trying to be threatening.
Aravind's art shows you glimpses of a standard Kodaikkanal bungalow. The editing definitely could have been slicker. And after all the hoo-ha about the name -- it's a just a place in Kodaikkanal. Aargh.
It's a pretty short movie but the predominant feeling you get when everything's over is that it could all have gone much better.