Director: Mari Selvaraj.
Writers: Mari Selvaraj.
Cast : Dhanush, Lal, Rajisha Vijayan, Yogi Babu, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, Natarajan Subramaniam.
Streaming on Amazon Prime.
Mari Selvaraj has always been vocal about the kind of stories he wants to bring on screen. In Pariyerum Perumal, he spoke about the brutal sides of casteism and how it keeps hunting an individual. With Karnan, he extends the effects of this hunt to a community.
Karnan, akin to Pariyerum Perumal, starts off with a disturbing scene where the viewers are quickly sucked into the world created by the director and it sets the tone for the rest of the film. The tension keeps intensifying event after event culminating in a moving and emotional final act, all the while making the viewers an integral part of the narrative.
While Pariyerum Perumal spoke about the pertinent caste issues prevalent in the society and the importance of having open discussions about it, Karnan asks one to ‘fight’ (literally) for their rights. Although this message sounds problematic, Mari Selvaraj through his brilliant screenplay effectively communicates the agony turned rage of his characters (‘the oppressed’) to his audience thus justifying their actions. The film is filled with moments that work as an eye opener of sorts making one wonder if this is indeed the world we live in. By the time the film ends, you are left analyzing the social barriers still existing in the society that all of us are ignorant of due to ‘certain’ privileges blessed up on us.
With Karnan, Mari Selvaraj also amps up the usage of visual metaphors. While in his first film, these metaphors were more subtly presented, here he chooses to make them louder and more evident. The allegories are easy to decode and also plays a crucial role in depicting the sufferings and emotional persona of the characters.
On the down side, it’s disappointing to see a craftsman like Mari Selvaraj giving very little importance to his female characters. Much like his initial film, the heroine and others are used as mere tools to provide emotional support to the male characters. There are few sequences that they own and bring out their best but it just makes you want to see more of them in a content driven film like ‘Karnan’.
Technically, Theni Eswar manages to capture the day-to-day activities of the community well and his frames add an additional punch to some of the most potent scenes in the film. Santhosh Narayanan’s music as always is full of life and blends well with the proceedings. A special mention to the art department for creating an entire village that looks authentic. The performances are adequate and all the actors have given good performances especially Dhanush, Lal, Nataraj and Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli.
To sum it up, Karnan is a powerful and stronger follow up to Pariyerum Perumal that effectively talks for the oppressed and how the society needs to rethink their attitude towards them. It is also a call for action when defiance fails!
Verdict – 6/7 stars
Fans of actor Sivaji Ganeson wrote a letter to the film’s producer and asked for the title of the film to be changed, since Sivaji Ganeson had previously starred in a 1964 film with the same name. The fans had made a similar request in 2006, when Dhanush’s film Thiruvilayadal was renamed as Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam (2006). However, unlike last time, the title of this film was kept the same.
Actor Karunas, who is also a politician in the Tamil Nadu Mukkulathor Pulipadai party, demanded that the film be banned since it was reportedly based on the 1995 Kodiyankulam caste riots. In fact, he even demanded the arrest of the film’s director, Mari Selvaraj, due to this issue. In response, Mari Selvaraj has stated that the film is not based on the riots at all.