Kushi, May 19, 2000


A light, airy romance

Well, well, what do you know! It is possible to tell an interesting love story, keeping the audiences engrossed throughout — all this, without warring fathers, lecherous men and assorted other villains.

That is the first thing that strikes you about Kushee, the Vijay-Jyotika starrer now doing a more than decent run at the box office.

Right from the outset, the director works on the destiny theme. His basic premise, spelt out via elaborate scenes of two children being born at the same time, in places as far apart as Calcutta and Kutralam, is that there is a destiny guiding the (love) affairs of men. That your mate is pre-fixed by the Powers Above and, willy-nilly, the two shall meet. And, in due season, mate.

The story itself is simply told. A lad in Calcutta, a lass in Kutralam, find their way, via various twists and turns of fate, towards each other. The two end up in the same college, they make friends, they gradually become aware of a growing fondness for each other.

At which point, enter the villain. I know, I know, I did say this film has no villains — but a film needs conflict. The director uses personal egos to create that conflict and the resulting misunderstandings that separate the pair. How they resolve their differences and fulfill their destiny forms the rest of the story.

It is simple, straight storytelling — and that is the film’s biggest plus point. A nice, easy script. Very well-etched characters. And an ability, on the part of the director, to enter into the minds of two young people discovering each other, and present their growing romance with just the right situational brushstrokes — delicate, evocative, touching.

The minimalistic storyline is an added asset. What the director does is create two characters, then lets them work their way through the story without extraneous frills and an overdose of drama. Thus, while the girl’s father is a proud Tamil Christian and the boy’s parents are devout, temple-going Hindus, the director steers clear of the trap of using religious differences as a catalyst for further drama. As far as he is concerned, he has a straight tale to tell, and he tells it with a minimum of fuss — paradoxically, it is the minimalism that maximises the impact.

The demands of the box office ensure that the director works in a couple of ‘items.’ One is the Macarena dance number with Shilpa Shetty doing a one-song appearance; another, the rather ‘hot’ Kettipudi kettipudi da dance featuring Mumtaz, whose debut as lead actress in T Rajendar’s hoky Monisha En Monalisa came a cropper and who appears set for an alternate career as a Silk Smitha-esque screen siren. Fortunately, neither of them really jars, nor detracts from the pace of story-telling, though you could quite easily excise the Shilpa Shetty ditty at the editing table and not even feel the cut.

Interestingly, the dance sequence that really highlights the film is neither of the above, but a rain song (Megham karukkudhu), picturised on Jyotika and highlighted by some spectacular cinematography.

Which brings us to the credits. The film is helmed by Surya (Justin, to use his given name — it was director Vasant who recommended that he adopt the pseudonym Surya, after the latter confessed to an admiration for a character by that name, played by Rajinikanth in the Mani Rathnam hit Dalapathi). Kushee is Surya’s second outing, after his debut, the Ajit-Simran starrer Vaali, became a bonafide superhit.

The director makes a cameo appearance onscreen, as the instrument of fate that ensures Vijay does not go off to Canada but ends up in a Madras college to pursue higher studies and, thus, meets the love of his life. He also pitches in to sing a few lines of the Macarena ditty (in Vaali, too, he had sung a few bars in the Veenal kaayudhu number). Judging by the evidence of his first two films, tight control over story-telling, an innate simplicity and a nice touch in pacing are his directorial plus points.

The male lead is Vijay. Ilaya Dalapathi, to give him his fan-bestowed sobriquet. Once seen as Rajinikanth’s natural heir, Vijay has been having a poor run of late, with films like Nenjinile, Minsaara Kanna and even the Fazil-directed Kannukkul Nilavu bombing at the box office. Kushee, thus, comes as a much-needed hit.

The hallmark of his acting is an ease before the camera, a very casual, at-home mein that translates into effortless performance. Vijay also comes across as one of the few top heroes to avoid the trap of narcissism — he is equally casual, thus, about his clothes and makeup, both of which are noticeably understated.

Fronting the female cast is Jyotika Sadanah — dubbed the Ilaya Nila, by her growing legion of fans. Nagma’s sister, who first appeared on screen in a small role in Vaali, before striking it rich with the more recent Ajith-hit Mugavari, knows what her USP is — a very mobile face and eyes brimming with mischief, the whole totalling an elfin charm — and milks it for all it’s worth.

Jyotika, in fact, seems on a roll with Kushee proving to be her second notable success, and with a starring role opposite Kamal Haasan in Thenali in the pipleline.

The likes of Vijaykumar, Nizhalgal Ravi and Beena (a Bombay import, who plays Vijay’s mother) play supporting roles. Also in the cast is Prasad, Prabhu Deva’s brother, first seen boogeying with Sonali Bendre in the Humma humma number in Bombay.

Cinematography is a standout feature of this particular A M Rathnam production and Jeeva (whose credits include the Shankar-directed Kamal Hassan-starrer Indian) comes up with some stunning visuals. The camera, unobtrusively brilliant throughout, really comes into its own in the rain song sequence.

The music is by Deva (which incidentally rounds off the Vaali team of Surya-Jeeva-Deva), with the Kattipudi… and Megham karukkudhu songs as the highlights of a highly competent score. Interestingly, the song credits include a certain Vasundhara Das — last heard warbling the hit Shakalaka baby number picturised on Sushmita Sen in Mudhalvan, and last seen engaged in some passionate kissing sequences with Kamal Haasan, when she played his second wife in Hey! Ram.

Overall, the light, airy romance of Kushee works just right for the holiday season, with an appeal calculated for the teen and family audiences.