Kanaa movie review: A promising sports drama elevated by Aishwarya Rajesh’s stand-out performance
Kanaa is more than just a sports film as it also shines the spotlight on the life of a farmer and the importance of farming, and this is where it really becomes overindulgent and gets into sermonising mode.
As a sports film about chasing dreams and winning against all odds, the Sivakarthikeyan-produced Kanaa gets a lot of things right. And the credit must go to first time writer-director Arunraja Kamaraj for handling this angle of the film as convincingly as possible, especially the extremely well shot and edited cricket matches portion. However, Kanaa is more than just a sports film as it also shines the spotlight on the life of a farmer and the importance of farming, and this is where it really becomes overindulgent and gets into sermonising mode. In trying to strike a balance between making a sports film and also talk about the state of farming, Kanaa struggles to make an impact and that’s probably the film’s biggest drawback.
Kanaa and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal have so much in common in terms of the issues they address. Both are coming-of-age sports dramas that feature protagonists who come from a farming family. If only Kanaa didn’t try to dwell too much upon the farming angle and instead focused on the story of an underdog and cricket, it could’ve worked wonders. Nevertheless, Kanaa is a promising sports drama that’s elevated by Aishwarya Rajesh’s stand-out performance as Kousalya aka Kousi, who aspires to become an international cricketer, so that she can put a smile on her cricket-loving father’s face and never let India lose another match.
Kousi’s journey to play cricket and represent India is inspiring and beautifully portrayed. From a young girl who watches and learns cricket from the older boys of her village to bowling the decisive super over in a World Cup semifinal game; Kanaa is packed with several crowd-pleasing moments that are relatable and make us root for Kousi, who is brought to life by Aishwarya in a memorable role. Beneath the sports angle, there’s a strong message about women empowerment and it gets translated on screen in the most hard-hitting fashion. The film talks a lot about the general mentality of men and how judgmental they get about women and their career choices. It’s really commendable that a male director chose to address this mindset so openly.
Sathyaraj plays Kousi’s father Murugesan, a farmer, who loves cricket so much that even on the day when his father passes away, he’s more interested in watching a match. The portion between Sathyaraj and Aishwarya works very well, emotionally as well as amusingly. Sivakarthikeyan plays an extended cameo and he appears in the role of a coach with a heavy Chak De India-hangover. The portion featuring Siva and the women in the Indian cricket team turns out to be very flat, hardly eliciting any feeling of inspiration. There are fleeting shots where he explains what really represents a team, but in the most boring fashion.
Tamil cinema hasn’t really milked sports as a genre. Kanaa is a step up in that direction and despite its flaws, it makes for an engaging watch, provided one ignores the highly melodramatic farming angle. Arunraja Kamaraj tries to hit two birds with one stone, and unfortunately, he doesn't quite hit it right.
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