In an interview before the release, Aishwarya Rajesh was asked why the film is named Ka Pae Ranasingam, and she replied that though the film revolves around Ariyanachi (her character), the soul of the film belongs to Ranasingam (Vijay Sethupathi). When you watch the film, you can see the conflict in the narrative. Ka Pae Ranasingam is essentially Ariyanachi’s story but the film focuses more on establishing who Ransingam is. Ka Pae Ranasingam wobbles due to this tug of war and we get a three-hour film that wanders a lot before coming to the point.
The story begins with Ariyanachi learning about the death of her revolutionary husband Ransingam at the ear-piercing ceremony of their daughter. And the film cuts to a flashback. But what essentially should have been a song or a brief chapter ends up taking a massive chunk of the runtime. We get to know about Ranasingam’s talent in finding water, his inclination towards public work, and protests. There’s also a cute love story between Ranasingam and Ariyanachi.
There’s plenty to unpack in terms of themes as well. We have the migrant crisis, the unemployment scene, capitalism, the apathy of the bureaucracy, and the abuse of power. A lot of this should have been background information, instead of being part of the main narrative and shown in real-time. The writing, though well-intentioned, is painfully superficial in pointing out the cruelty of bureaucratic red tape. Despite Ghibran’s pummelling background score, the ideas don’t transform into affecting cinema.
The film’s writing doesn’t really delve deep — it feels neither authentic nor organic. Despite the three-hour span, you don’t really get a grip on the characters beyond the obvious. Take Rangaraj Pandey, who plays the collector, for example. I found myself asking, ‘Neenga nallavara kettavara?’. The film also reminded me of a journalism lesson: don’t try to fit in all you have, just because you have it. Had the makers followed this, half of Ka Pae Ranasingam would have stayed at the edit table.
Several scenes merely hang around as punchlines. Just a bunch of well-intended messages do not make for interesting cinema. There’s also a lot of convenience in the writing (Ariyanachi magically finds someone to help in every city) and not enough inherent emotion. The perfunctory nature of the film’s craft doesn’t help either. Add sound consistencies and Zeeplex’s bug-infested interface, and the entire experience becomes an exercise in patience for the viewer.
However, Aishwarya’s performance shines through all this. Ariyanachi is an interesting mix of boldness, humour, wit, and strength. I especially loved the plucky Ariyanachi before she becomes the wife of Ransingam; her tongue-in-cheek conversations with Ranasingam are quite cute. It is tough to play a character who is one-dimensional, but the confidence Aishwarya brings is charming. The film should have been Ariyanachi and Aishwarya’s. Instead, it belongs to Ranasingam and Vijay Sethupathi, who could have sleep-walked through this role (I suspect he did, especially in the fight sequences).
The film suffers mainly because it refuses to recognise Ariyanachi as the protagonist: we needed to feel and understand how much her husband’s last rites mattered to her. Ka Pae Ranasingam is content to build-up a man who is already dead. It is also an example of how the perspective around women-centric cinema is so myopic. We need to understand that it goes beyond having a woman protagonist: it is about the lens we use to register them, their emotions, and complexities.
In the film, the prime minister (who looks uncannily like Narendra Modi) calls Ariyanachi, ‘India’s daughter’. It is common for the stories about India’s daughters to be maimed and manipulated by men. This film is no exception.
The most impressive aspect of Ka Pae Ranasingam is its title. It sits perfectly on this film which revolves around its protagonist (Ariyanachi), who is fighting against odds for something. And what she fights for revolves around her husband (Ranasingam). In case you were sceptical about why a film with such a strong female at its centre should be named after a male, the film does have a very strong justification, as the title in a way is the very essence of this film.
P Virumandi takes a hard hitting stand about a relevant topic. The apathy of the administration/system towards the common man is what he wants to register through this almost 3 hour drama. Ariyanachi is a fiesty young girl who falls for Ranasingam. Ranasingam is a rebel of sorts in his village and would raise his voice against any injustice, be it by an individual or by the system (to be read as the nexus between administrators and politicians or the government). Something unforeseen happens and Ariyanachi now takes on a fight single handedly against the powerful system.
Ka Pae Ranasingam is an earnest film. It might be a bit melodramatic at times but is also restrained at times. Overall, the performances are pretty good. Aishwarya Rajesh leads the show as the single-minded crusader. She achieves a certain balance wherein the scene itself might be playing to the gallery, but she lets out her emotions in a certain meter and this ensures that this performance gets our respect. Vijay Sethupathy’s role isn’t exactly a cameo but you cannot call him the hero of the film as well. He is mostly part of the lighter scenes and is quite relaxed. The supporting characters playing the family members too are pretty good. But the same cannot be said about the other characters playing politicians, government officials and the likes. It is not just about the actors playing these parts but even the execution of the scenes that they are a part of is quite lacklustre.
Ka Pae Ranasingam is overlong. As always, the issue is not the length but the fact that we feel it. The story is about Ariyanachi but since we have Vijay Sethupathy roped in, a lot of screen time is dedicated to him. It is not a problem per se, as there is a need for us to feel the bonding between the two leads in order to have us root behind Ariyanachi’s sole aim. But I wondered if a linear narration might have worked better for the film. Going back and forth means that the emotional heft sort of wavers. Also, what if Ranasingam was not the rebel that he is. Did the need to showcase him as one arise after casting Vijay Setupathy? The crux of the film would have still remained the same if he wasn’t the rebel that he is but then there is also this angle about how the system comes harder against the common man if he happens to be a crusader. Even then, the couple of stunt sequences seem unwarranted, though credit for keeping them reasonably realistic. While the resolution to the issue towards the climax appears a little too easy or forced or silly, the final scene of the movie does make amends! And not to forget, Ghibran goes about his job quietly and neatly as always.