Movie - Kandahar (Malayalam)
Director - Major Ravi
Producers - Mohanlal, Sunil Chandrika Nair
Cast - Amitabh Bachchan, Mohanlal, Ganesh Venkatraman, KPAC Lalitha, Sumalatha, Ragini Dwivedi, Major Ravi and others
Cinematography - Ravi Varman ISC
Music - Shameer Tandon
Editing - Don Max
Art Direction - Rajeevan
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Major Ravi
Release Date - 16th December 2010
Major Ravi made a sparkling debut in 2006 with his realistic take on an honest and brave army man called Major Mahadevan in Keerthichakra, drawing inspirations mostly from his life in the army. Then he made the critically acclaimed Mission 90 Days which was about a failed mission to catch the culprits behind Rajiv Gandhi's murder. Again a mission he was associated with, the movie had a bad climax and the failed mission didnt find many takers. He came up again with a sequel to Keerthichakra, called Kurukshetra, set in the backdrop of the Kargil war and Major Mahadevan became Colonel Mahadevan. The movie was a major disappointment except for a passionate Mohanlal making the entire theater go 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' at the end of the movie along with him (on the first day of course). And yea, it earned him a honorary Lieutenant Colonel post in the territorial army. Now, Major Ravi is back with a fictionalized version of the Kandahar hijack which happened in 1999. It is so fictionalized that in spite of the movie being called Kandahar, the flight is never taken to Kandahar, and there is no mention of the time and year when the whole incident is happening.
Usually, I write the synopsis of the movie I am reviewing in the second paragraph of my review. But I dont know what to write for this movie. From its name, still, posters and trailers, it promised that it was a fictional take on the 1999 Kandahar hijack and will have Mohanlal back as Major Mahadevan on an operation to fight against the terrorists. But what we get is a story about an aimless youth Sooryanath Sharma (Ganesh Venkatraman) who doesnt know what to do in life, despite being the son of a respectable teacher Loknath Sharma (Amitabh Bachchan). Major Mahadevan (Mohanlal) takes him under his wings and asks him to join the IMA to enroll in the army. Major Shiva (Major Ravi) gives him rigorous physical training at the IMA to make him a tough soldier. And when he becomes one, he joins Mahadevan's team and they go on a short mission to Kashmir after which they are immediately called to Kashmir for a rescue operation of the hijacked plane. On the other hand, there is another parallel story of another youth who receives training under the Taliban in Kandahar for Jehad against Hindustan. This is what I think the story is.
Initially, this was supposed to be a movie starring superstars from three industries - Mohanlal from Malayalam, Suriya from Tamil and Amitabh Bachchan from Hindi. This movie looks like it was clearly written for Suriya's character (if it was written at all). The entire first half is about Surya's character undergoing a personal change and becoming a tough soldier. But since it is not an actor like Suriya playing the role and it is Ganesh Venkatraman, there is absolutely no effect. It looks like a terrible mish-mash of Joshiy's Nair Saab and Farhan Akhtar's Lakshya for a pretty long time. If they wanted to tell a story about a guy finding himself, then why mislead us saying that this is a movie about the famous hijack. There was actually some potential in the parallel narrative of 2 friends - one getting trained to be an army man, and the other being trained to be a terrorist. But since the 2 roles are played by such horrible actors, and the scenes are developed in the lamest manner, everything is lost. And the terrorist character is bumped off just like that after a lot of build up in the first half. But the audience are lead to believe that the movie is about the plane hijack and they get to see a completely different story - they lose their interest then and there.
Coming to performances, Mohanlal's role looks like its nothing more than an extended cameo. He gives an earnest performance, but it certainly lacks the punch and intensity we had seen in Keerthichakra and Kurukshetra (even though the latter was a very very bad film). There is no scene or situation itself through which Mohanlal could come into his own. Even the hyped scenes between him and Mr.Bachchan are a huge let down because of poor writing. The character Major Mahadevan was fascinating in the first part, and even though Mohanlal has a physique which is in total contrast to what a major should be possessing, he managed to play the role convincingly with 100% honesty. The same character became a Colonel in the 2nd part and lost a lot of his charm and then Major Ravi turns him into an NSG Commando in the 3rd part (logic had gone for a toss long back itself) and robs him of all his charm completely. Now why would anyone want to see a good character deteriorating in the course of three films? One really hopes that Major Ravi does not come up with another movie making him into some other military official and does much more damage than what is done already. And Laletta, we want you back. Why would you want to reject a project like Saat Khoon Maaf (Vishal Bhardwaj) and do something like Kandahar? And why did you have to produce it under your banner which is associated only with quality?
The next question - why did Amitabh Bachchan have to play Loknath Sharma? It could have been played by any reasonably good actor. He does not have anything much to do other than deliver an emotional scene in the end, which and actor of his caliber can do in his sleep. The whole movie and its script seems like it was made/written to create that one last scene between Mohanlal and Amitabh Bahchcan. And then, even that scene turns out to be such a big let down. The last nail in the coffin is when Mohanlal tells Bachchan that he wants to be like a son to him. Compare that to the scene where an emotionally devastated Rajiv Menon asks the maid Maggie whether she can love him like a son, in Dasharatham. (My personal favourite Mohanlal performance ever); and you can understand the deterioration of writing in our cinema. Bachchan plays his part well. All the jazz about his Malayalam debut (even though in a cameo), and he's given such a raw deal. You feel really sad for the great actor. And there's also the fact whenever Bachchan & Mohanlal acted together, the films turned out to be poor jokes - first Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and now Kandahar.
The hero of the film is Ganesh Venkatraman, and he comes up with an embarassingly lame performance with an even lamer dubbed voice which speaks heavily accented Tamil, Hindi and English, when the character is supposed to be well versed in all these languages along with Malayalam. People would have still sat through this movie if Suriya played this role as per initial plans, but unfortunately, it is Ganesh. The actor did an okay job in Kamal Haasan's Unnaipol Oruvan and was decent in Abhiyum Naanum, but he's a complete failure in this movie. Major Ravi also takes up a 'major' portion of the screen time and is extremely over the top (maybe trainers at IMA are over the top, but this was a bit too much). The guy who played the Muslim youth who gets trapped in a terrorist group was horrible as well. KPAC Lalitha, who played his mother, is the only character and performance that moved me in the entire movie. Anil Murali, in a 1 minute scene with no dialogues did better than most of the other actors in the movie. Sumalatha marks her return to Malayalam Cinema in a blink & miss role. The rest are all plain pathetic - especially Anoop Chandran, Jaffer Idukki and the bunch of females. Anoop & Jaffer are horrible and thankfully their parts are cut down, but we're subjected to seeing them trying to cry on screen in the climax as well. And there were 2 item girls who cant even be called items. The villains look like sissies.
It is very clear that the movie didnt have anything close to a script (I wonder what Bachchan read before he agreed to work in this movie for free) and that is the main reason for the movie's failure. The audience wont digest anything and everything that is served to them in the name of patriotism. Especially when there is no actual patriotism in it. The movie doesnt even have a villain(s). A movie becomes interesting only when a protagonist has an equally strong antagonist against him. Keerthichakra had that, and it worked. The 2 sequels didnt have any such thing, and they fell flat. And the entire resuce mission is done so conveniently. Mohanlal and company just walk under the aircraft (nobody seem to be in the vicinity), and climb inside through its base and soon, we find them inside the flight, killing almost all the terrorists very easily. Ganesh's death, which is very important in the entire movie, does not even register when it happens. And the crash landing was an epic disaster. As somebody pointed out, the wikipedia article on the Kandahar hijack is more intriguing than the entire hijack sequence in this movie (which gets over in some 20 minutes). And yes, this wannabe patriotic movie, even has a terrible item number with 2 scantily clad females doing some really vulgar moves to an even more vulgar song, in a disco right next to the IMA. Major Ravi Saab, we salute you!!!
Cinematography is good in parts, but definitely not the kind expected from the cinematographer of Anniyan, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Dasavathaaram - Ravi Varman. Rajeevan who usually does killer art work in Gautham Menon's movies does build a decent set of the interior of the aircraft but has huge continuity errors. Don Max's editing is okay. Music by Shameer Tandon does not help the film in any way and the only good song plays during the end credits. A horribly bad song used for promotions (it even got compared to Silsila Hey Silsila) was thanfkully edited out. A newbie called Vivek has conveniently copied tunes from various patriotic movies of AR Rahman like Legend of Bhagat Singh and Rang De Basanti and pasted them claiming it is his original background score. Yea, right!! There's an Amal Neerad-ish action sequence with Mohanlal & Major Ravi in the first half. The slow motion and night setting ruins it. Mohanlal, with all his weight, manages to do all the stunts effortlessly, but the stunts themselves are really bad and not even a single shot had a punch to it. Dialogues are plain pathetic.
Kandahar is a pretentious film and that comes out through every scene in the movie. 5 minutes into the movie, the audience loses interest in it and never gets it back till the end credits. Mohanlal, Amitabh Bachchan and a lot of other resources and money are royally wasted by the writer-director Major Ravi in this king-sized disappointment of a film. And he also manages to malign the name of a production house like Pranavam Arts which has always stood for quality so far. Mohanlal also should be held responsible for that, since it is him who approved this script and made the decision to revive his own reputed production house with this film. It is not as bad as most of the bad movies that releases every week. But its pretentiousness and fake promises make it a huge embarrassment for Malayalam Cinema.
Major Saab, we will live with the memories of Major Mahadevan from Keerthichakra, please dont bring him back again.
Lalettaa, why!! But why!!
P.S. - Suriya must be having the last laugh.
Rating - 2/5