Directed by: #ManoranjanDSami
Written by: Manoranjan D'Sami
Except for its chilling final scene, themes of misogyny, sex-selective abortions and inequality of gender roles are left lacking in this drama from writer-director Manoranjan D’Sami. Focused on Indian mother and wife Nandhini who is pregnant again, the film revolves around the pressures placed upon her for the child to be a boy. This demand comes from her husband Kaalan, who is displeased at his first child being a daughter, a “mistake” that shall be fixed with the arrival of a son. D’Sami has this become a film about a woman questioning her role within this world and how that world will affect her daughter. It’s clear that the status quo doesn’t respect woman’s rights, this ridiculous notion that they are to be homemakers and birth male heirs, a highly archaic notion that traps Nandhini.
The credits of the film feature headlines and messages speaking to the horrifying realities of the patriarchy’s grip on India, referencing infanticide and selective abortion. D’Sami adds this to give real-world context to the weight of the film but none of this reality comes across just a presentation of a missed opportunity. Nandhini contemplates an abortion with the film staying ambiguous to what her final choice is concerning her future but the direction of the script fails to capture this ominous burden and consequences.
Kaalan Nandhini suffers from a lack of subtlety in its presentation and portrayal as the examination of this chauvinistic reality feels heavy in exposition. While P Nithya’s central performance delivers that much-needed sense of sympathy and helplessness much of the film feels stilted in how it presents conflicts between characters and information to fuel the debate about its themes. Data and figures shoehorned into dialogue or fights between Nithya and her husband lacking a personal depth to make this content cut deep. The score from G. Yuvan Karthik is overbearing and out of place, robbing scenes of their emotional intimacy. Though despite these faults there is clear respect from D’Sami on wanting to educate his audience about these realities, not demonising the struggles or desperation of Nithya but making it a reflection of the society. The film, however, doesn’t go far enough in making memorable or effective even with high points from P Nithya or Joe Allen’s cinematography.
Kaalan Nandhini ends strong displaying the potential and power to the film’s premise as that inescapable truth becomes so tragically clear in the most mundane of actions. D’Sami’s direction though makes the journey to that moment so muddled that it’s annoying the whole film didn’t take similar creative choices. To the uninformed audience on this issue, the film won’t do much to enlighten you on the specifics only offer a mere glimpse into such an unfortunate yet seemingly commonplace state of mind.