Kannathil Muthamittal (A
Peck on the Cheek)
Reviewed by Simon Booth
Director: Mani Ratnam
Music: A.R. Rahman; Lyrics: Vairamuthu
Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes
Sri Lanka... not a country I've ever given
much thought to, I have to admit. I didn't even know it was near India,
let alone that there has been a bloody civil war going on there since 1983.
It seems that the rebels of the Tamil minority have been in an ongoing
conflict with the military regime that runs the country for many years,
causing many deaths and widespread suffering on the island.
Mani Ratnam's latest film, A PECK ON THE CHEEK,
tells the story of a young girl named Amudha, who is separated from her
Sri Lankan parents by the war and raised by a young Indian couple (Madhavan
and Simran). Amudha is a bright and mischievous girl, whose life is turned
upside down when her parents tell her that she was adopted as a child.
Although her adopted parents love her as much as could be, and have raised
her without prejudice along with their biological children, Amudha cannot
help but want to learn more about her biological family.
Mani Ratnam is probably best known for his 1998
film DIL SE, which hides a story about terrorism and politics inside a
love story (or is it the other way around?). A PECK ON THE CHEEK inhabits
similar territory, but is perhaps more ambitious in the ground it covers.
The central theme that binds the movie is of love between all the various
members of a family, and especially that between a child and her adopted
parents. It's a pretty honest and open look at feelings, that can be extremely
touching and heartwarming at some times and quite painful at others.
It's an emotionally complex film, with characters
that are somewhat idealised but still behave in a very human way.
The film revolves around 9 year old Amudha,
played with charm and vivaciousness by young actress P.S. Keerthana in
her first and only acting role. She's a princess and a monster, always
getting into trouble but so disarmingly charming nobody can stay mad at
her for long. The young actress is perfectly cast for the role, and does
a tremendous job in the various and often difficult emotional scenes required
A PECK ON THE CHEEK has such an innocent name
I was quite unprepared for the intensity of the experience. Never has such
a small act come with such an enormous emotional impact, I dare say. The
film is a bold and artistic effort to explore issues that are not frequently
covered on the silver screen. Mani Ratnam's direction is superb, very confident
and mature - the most sophisticated work I've seen from this director yet.
The film is visually very stylish, with some excellent camerawork and imagery.
A.R. Rahman provides the film's soundtrack, which is not as good as his
classic DIL SE or BOMBAY music (based on first impressions at least) but
still shows his great musical talent.
I saw it in Tamil with English subtitles thanks
to the San Francisco International Film Festival, of which the film was
undoubtedly the highlight. The production is a truly world class effort,
and I am sure it will be popular with western audiences as it begins to
receive wider exposure.