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Kannaki (2002)- Lal, Nandita Das, Geethu Mohandas, Siddique

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Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Jayaraj’s Kannagi is based on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Jayaraj’s fascination for Shakespearean tales continues and he has employed the same techniques as in his earlier film Kaliyattam. The director has put together a seemingly impossible Shakespearean tale into a Malayalee milieu and it has turned out to be an astonishing movie.

Manickan (Lal) and Choman (Siddique) are best friends in a local village. Manickan excels in the local game of ‘Cock Fight’ and has total mastery of the game and the bird. Manickan is actually fighting for Choman in his regular cockfights with the Gounder (Manoj K.Jayan). The local beauty is Kannagi (Nandita Das) who has some magical powers and half the village is lusting after her. Choman and the Gounder had fallen out with Kannagi, but Kannagi likes Manickan. She likes him for his courage and macho image. Manickan has another admirer in Choman’s sister Kumudam (Geetu Mohandas).

Kannagi and Manickan become very close and he takes a decision to marry her. When Choman comes to know of this, he is furious. He wants Manickan to marry his sister and goes to the extent of announcing their wedding at a public function. Manickan meets Kumudam and explains to her that he has a sisterly affection to her and not of that of a lover. The rest of the film is about the intrigue, deceit, lust, blackmail, and treachery in the tempestuous journey of the protagonist. In addition we are made privy to the trauma faced by Kannagi alleged to be practising witchcraft.

But on the whole Jayaraj’s engaging directorial style and good performance by Nandita Das as Kannagi and Geetu Mohandas as Kumudam makes the film, a superior quality cinema. On the downside Lal as Manickan tends to overact in places. The camera of M.J.Radhakrishnan is first class, as he has beautifully picturised the Palakkadan mountains and the village milieu. The cockfight scenes are a major highlight of the film, especially in the climax.

Well done Jayaraj, you have mixed art and commercial cinema in the right proportion.

Directed by Jayaraj
Music by Kaithapuram
Lyrics by Kaithapuram
Songs sung by Yesudas, MG Sreekumar, Chithra, Sujatha

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