The story opens with a prologue showing life in a seminary and introducing viewers to Bergmans (Arjun), who seems to be more interested in the pleasures of life than in the learning of the scriptures. Contrast this with the soft spoken and righteous Sam (Arvind Swamy), who is devoted to his studies.
When Bergmans is caught committing the sin of the flesh by Sam and subsequently evicted from the seminary, it triggers a tale of vengeance and deceit as Bergmans vows to teach Sam a lesson.
Cut several years later to a fishing village where Sam, now Father Sam, is posted in a dilapidated church. The charismatic Sam not only wins the love of the people but also transforms Thomas, an unruly orphan born to a prostitute and a social reject.
The story gets a thrust forward after an injured Bergman is washed ashore and Sam restores him to life.
Kadal, is a story of good versus evil, of retribution and forgiveness told in the inimitable style of Mani Ratnam.
A frame that refuses to leave the mind is that of little Thomas holding his mother and clasping her tight, little realizing that she was dead. This child actor scores with his expressions that range from innocence to bereavement and rejection.
Gautham Karthik, as the older Thomas is a natural and shows great promise.
The surprise was action king Arjun’s role as the anti-hero and he delivers a punch backed performance. Arvind Swamy making a comeback after 12 years proves he can still deliver. Newcomer Thulasi blends in well as Beatrice; her spontaneous laughter enhancing her child like character. Brilliant was Ponvannan’s performance too.
Complementing Mani Ratnam’s work is Rajiv Menon’s camera capturing the different moods of the sea. Check out the stormy scene that comes as the finale.
Rahman’s music is refreshing with new voices, especially the song-sequence of ‘Adiye, Adiye,’ an excellent piece of choreography, vibrant and original.
Yet, Kadal disappoints as the narrative ends up like another Tamil masala film, albeit with a moral lesson to share.
Watching a Mani Ratnam film, you inevitably compare ‘Kadal,’ with his earlier films.
Noticeably missing are those tender moments often captured between the lead pair and portrayed realistically in every film of his.
How can one forget the scene from Roja, where Rishi teases Roja, as he stuffs a handful of snow into her sari. And, a surprised Roja removes her sari to throws it off, but then suddenly overcome by shyness, she hides in a room. When she steps out wearing Rishi’s pullover, trying hard to pull it down, Mani Ratnam catches that sweet moment in the couple’s life in the reflection of a mirror.
Or the furtive glances that the love struck Shekar and Shaila Bano stole in Bombay.
Or Mouna Raagam, another Ratnam story, that traced the blossoming of love in Divya for her husband, whom she had spurned earlier. Several poignant moments in this film were effectively portrayed by actors Revathi and Mohan.
Only Ratnam has an eye for little details, borrowed from life.
Where are those tender moments in Kadal? You can’t help but keep wondering.