Kannathil Muthamittal Revisited

Watching the last half an hour or so of Kannathil Muthamittal on K TV today morning, I remembered the post of mine that has been lying unfinished in the drafts for a long time now.

Sometime in June last year (this post has been in draft from that time!!), there was this thematic concert of T.M.Krishna that I went to. The theme of the concert was ‘Relationships’. As I heard a moving rendition of Mahakvi Bharatiyar’s ‘chinnanchiru kiLiye’(which he had chosen for the relationship between a father and his daughter) by TMK – how does he manage to bring so much bhava in everything that he sings! TMK rocks! 🙂 –, I couldn’t help remembering the movie ‘Kannathil Muthamittal’ the moment he sang those lines in the song. 🙂 As my thoughts drifted towards the movie, the first thing that came to my mind was what an apt title Mani Ratnam had chosen for the movie!

Kannathil Muthamittal is one movie which explores so many relationships so beautifully. Relationship between a father and his daughter/children, a mother and her daughter/children, between siblings – both between kids (Amudha and her brothers) as well as between grown up adults (Madhavan & his sister), between a husband and wife, between a grandfather and his grandchildren, even between citizens of a country and their love for their country, etc. Considering the fact that this is one movie which has a strong characterization for all the characters, irrespective of the screen time they occupy, even a single scene is enough to show the relationship that the characters on screen in each scene, share. But the one relationship that is at the helm of this movie is the relationship between a father and his daughter.


From the beginning till the end, the love and affection that Thiruchelvan has for his daughter, Amudha, is what the entire movie is built upon. Thiruchelvan, the man who tells his daughter, ‘unakku vilai yaedhu da kaNNu’ (I love Madhavan’s dialogue delivery of this line.) when she asks him if he had bought her by paying money, tells her ‘nee dhaan enna modha modhala ezhudha veccha, nee dhaan enakku Indrava koNDu vandhu kuDuttha, nee dhaan enakku ellaame’.

Quoting from my previous post on this movie,

When Simran asks Madhavan whether he is adopting Amudha for the sake of marrying her or is it the other way round, he answers, “Enakku indha kaNNum pidikkum andha kaNNum pidikkum, indha kannamum vaeNum andha kannamum vaeNum.”

Nice way to escape without answering her question! This does make you wonder whether Madhavan would have proposed first to Simran if he had been allowed to adopt Amudha earlier. Wouldn’t he have waited for her to propose first? After all, he does say earlier in the movie after her marriage gets fixed, ‘Andha poNNu manasula dhairiyam irundha ava avana vaendaannu solluvaa’)

It is the he who makes it a point to let his daughter know that she is their adopted daughter. It is he who doesn’t let any strain develop in their relationship even after he tells his daughter the truth. It is he who agrees to help her meet her real mother and does succeed in it too. And above all, it is he who doesn’t treat Amudha as just a child. He stops Indra when she tries to go near Amudha to comfort her when Amudha starts crying when everybody is having their food. He doesn’t say anything against Amudha even when Indra complains about her and instead talks about how stubborn both mother and daughter are. He doesn’t scold Amudha when she runs away from home the first time or even when she goes to Rameswaram. So maybe because of the way he treats her, it is with him that his daughter feels more close to than her adopted mother. Does she ever say she wants to meet her real father? 😉

We get to read/watch so much about the love between a man and a woman. But how many times do we get to watch such a beautiful story between a father and his daughter? 🙂

As I was talking with my friends about how this father-daughter relationship is what this movie revolves around, none of them agreed and they said it’s the mother-daughter relationship, the girl who wants to meet her real mother, is the most important one in this movie. Agreed but it is only because of Thiru that Amudha got to meet her real mother and that’s why I say the movie revolves around it.

As I was writing this post, I was browsing through the interviews of Mani Ratnam that I have with me. It’s has been years since I read these interviews and I can’t tell you happy I am reading those now since I don’t even remember having read something like this earlier! I came across an interview in which he speaks about Thiruchelvan. Here is an excerpt from the interview: (This interview had appeared in mybindi.com when Kannathil Muthamittal was screen in the Toronto International Film Festival. I am not able to find the link to this interview now)

AO: Yes, I noticed that you humanize the issue of terrorism and illustrate the effect it has on the family unit – I found this particularly fascinating, because it brings so many emotions to the surface. Do you have any special techniques that you use to bring out such raw emotion in your characters? Especially the relationship between Thiru, Indra and Amudha – it’s the first time in an Indian film that I’ve seen that kind of parent-child relationship where despite the fact that Sri Lanka was a war-torn society, Thiru puts everything aside because the fact that his child was in anguish was enough reason to take her there. It displayed parental love to the extreme. How did accomplish this with your characters?
MR: Actually, that was an aspect which was really difficult; to convince somebody that he would actually take his child across to a place where she was born even though the place is full of problems. We had to make it very clear across the film that the kind of person he is – the kind of writer he is who is sensitive to issues, who is sensitive to relationships and who is somehow an idealist at heart who is not scared, who will go ahead and do what he thinks is right. And because of that kind of personality that the character portrays, it just becomes an extension of his philosophy to life, his philosophy to writing, that he would do something which he thinks is right, and not hesitate. That is sometimes the way – the character dictates the way things should go – they have a life of their own, they just take you along on the path that would be right for the film. That’s sometimes what leads you on.

AO: So, you’re able to build these characters and then they have their own psychology and their own way of doing things?
MR: Once you’ve built the character, it has its own rules. You know this character will not do a few things but will do a few things so that directs you and if you’re honest with that, the emotion comes across generally – if you’re consistent with the character and if he plays it with that consistency then it comes across.

It feels great reading about the man himself speak about the character he created! 🙂 Am now off to search for more treasures like these saved in my system! You all have a happy weekend!

19 thoughts on “Kannathil Muthamittal Revisited

  1. dandilsa

    Lovely post Aparna! I loved the father-daughter relationship in the movie. I read somewhere that MR had Madhavan read Ayn Rand to prepare for his role. And yes, TMK rocks!!! 🙂

  2. Sathej

    Watched this movie sometime back. I wouldn’t say its a mother-daughter/father-daughter relationship based one. To me, it was largely based on child psychology issues. Was a good portrayal of the psychology of innocence. The mother character appealed to me highly as well.

    As for the comment by the Director, interesting – the way he speaks of a character conforming to certain rules, once its been built. Yes, but the story also ought to conform to certain rules to sound more realistic. This film was realistic in most parts, but it had certain parts that I found difficult to pass of as coincidence. Yes, what is important in art is not realism but how closely one approaches realism, while exercising freedom that is appealing. Yet, at a few points, I found it hard to justify certain liberties taken. Having said that, the film, as a whole, was a good attempt and seemed nice to me.

    Maybe, shall write a post sometime..hmm..

    PS : That concert by TMK was the one where he started off with Mayamma right. I liked the Ahiri start in that concert but was put off by that RTP in Thodi and its format.

    @ dandilsa,
    I don’t quite get the connect between Ayn Rand and the character that Madhavan played..


  3. R.Saravanan

    Dear Aparna,

    Hope you are fine.

    Yeah!! One of the best made movies both in terms of story as well as location and star cast for sure.

    Speaking of TMK, Yeah he sings with great bhava rasam always!!!


  4. Dandilsa

    @Sathej – Madhavan’s character is supposed to follow the “Objectivism” philosophy, which Ayn Rand developed and wrote about in her books.

  5. Sathej

    Well, having seen the movie and read quite a bit of Ayn Rand, I wouldn’t call the heroes’ character in the movie a good illustration of objectivism at all. Self existence, reason et al aren’t extolled in the Ayn Rand sense, for sure.


  6. Vaishnavi Rajendran

    Hey Aparna! It’s my first time here, it’s a lovely blog and I must say, it’s refreshing to read the blog of a fellow chennaite 🙂 I had come across very few before and so I feel as if I have stumbled across a gold mine here. On the other hand, this is a lovely lovely post. I love Mani Ratnam and KM is one of his best. You are right about the father daughter relationship here. On a very basic level, Thiruchelvan is the reason behind it all, in entirety. I don’t follow TMK (my mom does) but I love Bharatiyar’s work 🙂 Very nice blog you have here, do visit mine 🙂 I shall link you up and come back regularly from now 🙂

  7. Aparna

    Thank you 🙂 Oh I didn’t know that. Thanks for that info!

    🙂 That is what makes TMK’s song renditions all the more special 🙂

    Perception of what is important for art may vary from person from person..
    I would have been surprised had you even liked that RTP format

    Thank you! 🙂

    Hope you are doing good too.

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks a lot! 🙂 I read parts of a few posts of yours. Will read it fully soon

  8. Sathej

    True, I agree. Perception of central elements (or whether such things exist at all) in art would differ. That comment of mine should have included the fact that an excessively strong deviation from realism sometimes doesn’t appeal to me ‘personally.’

    And well, the RTP – good that its rather easy for people to make a judgement of my preferences 🙂


  9. hima

    Here goes my first comment 😉

    “if you’re consistent with the character and if he plays it with that consistency then it comes across.” This was always one essential criteria for me to like any movie. no wonder i love his movies (esp. this one)!!!!!

  10. Saravanan


    I am back to pester you about the verses I asked for in your previous post on this topic. I asked about the verses Madhavan utters in Sri Lanka after he and Prakash Raj get caught by the tigers.

    You promised me that you will write them down when you get time and will send it to me.


  11. Siddharth

    Plz review mani’s other cult classics like geetanjali,guru,aayuthu ezhutu,iruvar n my most fav mouna raagam once again.i want u to compare alaipayuthey with saathiya.if mani sir wd ve directed that it cud ve been a classic of hindi cinema like alaipayuthey.plz do wrte reviews abt the same.cant wait to read.

  12. Shanu

    As you are a fan of Ayn Rand, We are pleased to announce a special screening of the film “We The Living”, and Live

    interaction with the producer Duncan Scott at 3 p.m. on Saturday, 21 August 2010, at the NCUI Auditorium in Delhi.

    The detailed program for the evening is as follows:

    Venue: Committee Room Alpha, National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI),
    3 Siri Fort Institutional Area, August Kranti Marg, New Delhi 110016
    Date and Time: 21 August 2010, 3 pm

    Liberty Institute, New Delhi
    Tel: +91-11-28031309, Email: info@AynRand.in



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