Karnan review: Thought provoking & hard-hitting
Karnan clearly belongs to Dhanush and it is a cakewalk for him.
Critic's Rating: 4/5
Friday 09 April 2021
Karnan review: Thought provoking & hard-hitting
Dhanush, Rajisha Vijayan, Lal, Natty, GM Kumar, Yogi Babu
Mari Selvaraj's Karnan has all the elements that a mass hero demands from filmmakers to exhilarate his fans and this most anticipated film of 2021 is an apt example of good cinema
The plot of Karnan is wafer-thin but it is the execution of Mari Selvaraj that makes it special. It is the story of a normal fearless guy with incredible leadership quality and grit to save his people and fight for their rights. Right from MGR to today's Vijay and Ajith, we have seen our mass icons in similar stories but all those films weren't made by a director who also believes that all the characters in the film should have a purpose and the core theme is more important than the protagonist. With Karnan, Mari Selvaraj has found a perfect balance between mainstream commercial elements and the metaphorical storytelling, the home ground of arthouse filmmakers.
Podiyankulam (Inspired by the infamous Kodiyankulam riot) is a dry village located in the 90s Tuticorin district. The film begins with a small girl lying on the road struggling with a sudden epilepsy attack. None of the vehicles stop to help her and she dies. Eventually, Mari replaces the girl's head with an idol (Uruvam is the word used for it in down south of Tamil Nadu).
The youngsters in the village are unable to achieve big as even the basic transportation facility is denied by the Government. The people in Podiyankulam belong to the oppressed caste and hence, they have enmity with the neighboring village where the majority of people belong to the privileged community (note the Seevilaperi Pandi song as the person from the neighboring village makes his appearance for the first time in the film).
Meanwhile, Karnan (Dhanush), an angry young man from Podiyankulam always stands for his people. Karnan is like the warrior from Mahabharata, a strong-willed youngster, who fights for his people and comes out victorious in whatever he does. His Godfather in the village is Yaman (Lal). While Karnan stands up whenever the neighboring villagers try to oppress his people, Yaman controls him as the dream of the former's family is to get him a Government job, preferably in the police or army.
However, the continuous oppression pushes Karnan and his friends to revolt. As a result, they break a private bus and loudly tell the Government officials that their needs should be heard out. But the police officials and Government lets them down and brutally torture the senior members in the village. Will Karnan hit back at the heartless police force headed by Kannabiran (Natty- what an ironical name!)?
Mari Selvaraj has made sure that Kannan, the God of Mahabharata is a villain here and Karnan, the unsung hero gets enough glorification on screen. There are many metaphors including the little girl with an idol-like mask, a donkey whose legs are tied, the vulture that eats up the weak pullet, names of the village seniors, and Karnan's sword that cuts the fish in the first scene. All these metaphors either acts as an ode to Mahabharata (although the film criticizes it) or rightly amplify the screenplay.
Mari Selvaraj has conveyed the pain and sufferings of the oppressed without hurting anyone and he must be appreciated for using the visual representation and not the heroic dialogues to represent their struggle. Even, the pre-climax dialogue of Dhanush sounds relevant and not forced. He is the filmmaker to watch out for in Tamil cinema.
Karnan clearly belongs to Dhanush and it is a cakewalk for him. He is fantastic in the action scenes and the emotional moments to express the anguish of the oppressed. Lal has finally got an interesting role in Tamil cinema and he has truly excelled. GM Kumar, Yogi Babu (another fantastic role for the actor), Rajisha Vijayan, Lakshmipriya (the scene when she hits Dhanush is powerful), Gouri Kishan, Natty, Yogi Babu, and the small boy who takes care of the horse are superb choices.
Santhosh Narayanan's music is inspiring and gels well with the mood of the film and Theni Eshwar's camera work is splendid. The art director Ramalingam also deserves applause for recreating an entire 90s style village. On the downside, the film is a tad bit long and actors struggle to speak Nellai Tamil.
Overall, Karnan is a classic revenge saga that talks about the pain, suffering, and rise of the oppressed.
Verdict: Go for it!
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