Identity Crisis


There is comedy of errors. And then, apparently, there is comedy of identity. Manikandan has made the latter with well disguised tropes of the former. The opening credits flash in front of a deliberate 80s aesthetics graphics background. It’s as if Manikandan wants you to know that problems from that decade still exist. Like unemployment, a need to find a new career path elsewhere, bureaucracy, the effects of gruesome civil war. Or that which headlines all of these. Identity. Identity is of paramount importance in Aandavan Kattalai. Or anywhere as common sense might tell you. There is mad rush to claim any sense of identity. A passport here. A voters ID card there. The name of a nonexistent wife is enquired. It is conjured out of thin air with full cognizance of a Sri Lankan friend, in Tamil Nadu, searching for his wife and child. Later a situation arises where the nonexistent wife has to be divorced. Gandhi (Vijay Sethupathi) and Pandi (Yogi Babu) want a divorce from the country. Nesan (Aravindan) is not in his country and is forever looking for a bond to forge. And here is Gandhi trying to separate from a bond that was only in his imagination. The only person who has a charitable opinion on Gandhi is the acting coach (Nassar). The person who assumes (and teaches to) several identities for a living. He is the only person Gandhi is honest (his real self) with. Manikandan crafts what’s at times delightful, most times touching comedy playing around these identities. Like the fine Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum earlier this year, Aandavan Kattalai doesn’t make a big deal about what it wants to say. But says it anyway. Like its women – Karmegakuzhali (Ritika Singh) or Vinodhini (who is brilliant!) as the junior lawyer. There is something loaded and compact in the way the senior lawyer George remarks on the junior lawyer taking his chair at the slightest instance. This is a film I suspect will reward multiple viewings. Like most black comedies. Every situation (screenplay by Arul Chezhiyan, M. Manikandan and Anucharan) is mined for its humor. Even the heart wrenching ones end with humor that’s packaged as something else. When Gandhi’s friend says rendu bus um velaya irundhudhu (both the buses were white), ethi vitten, I wondered if it is a comment on the restlessness in escaping to the West. Probably that is why Manikandan chose to call it Aandavan Kattalai. That’s one thing you don’t choose – identity. It comes preordained and whether you take it or leave it depends on you and your circumstances.


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