|Directed by||Mani Ratnam|
|Produced by||Mani Ratnam|
|Screenplay by||Mani Ratnam|
Sujatha Rangarajan (dialogue)
|Based on||"Amuthavum Avanum"|
by Sujatha Rangarajan
|Music by||A. R. Rahman|
|Cinematography||Ravi K. Chandran|
|Edited by||A. Sreekar Prasad|
Kannathil Muthamittal (transl. A Peck on the Cheek) is a 2002 Indian Tamil-language musical war film produced and directed by Mani Ratnam. It was based on a short story, "Amuthavum Avanum" by Sujatha Rangarajan. The film stars Madhavan, Simran and Baby Keerthana with Nandita Das, J. D. Chakravarthy, Prakash Raj and Pasupathy portraying other pivotal characters. The film's score and soundtrack were composed by A. R. Rahman, while Ravi K. Chandran handled the cinematography. Mani Ratnam presents the story of a child of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage adopted by Indian parents, whose desire is to meet her biological mother in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It was released on 14 February 2002.
The film premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, It also received a strong reception when screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2003.The film received high critical acclaim upon release and went on to win six National Film Awards, three Filmfare Awards South, six Cinema Express Awards, seven Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and Best Film awards at six international film festivals.
The film begins in a small village in Sri Lanka called Mankulam, where M. D. Shyama (Nandita Das) is married to Dileepan (J. D. Chakravarthy), who along with a few other Sri Lankan Tamils in the village, is part of the LTTE. While having a quiet moment, the couple hears sounds of Sri Lankan Army troops approaching. He asks Shyama to leave while he remains in the forest. Shyama realizes that she is pregnant and waits in vain for Dileepan’s return. Her villagers begin fleeing to India to seek refugee due to the war. Shyama is initially reluctant to leave her husband behind, but her relatives convince her to seek refuge for her unborn child's sake. The villagers board a boat to the shores of Rameswaram. On the journey, one of the rebels says that he has seen her husband, Dileepan, with bullet wounds in the forest. Shyama wants the boat to turn around but it is too late. In Rameswaram, while a local collector takes down the names of the refugees, Shyama gives birth to a baby girl. However, the urge to find her possibly wounded husband and reunite with her people back home overwhelms Shyama and she leaves behind the newborn girl, hoping that the girl will lead a better life.
Nine years later in Chennai, a young girl, Amudha (Baby Keerthana) narrates her family life. She introduces her father, writer Thiruchelvan (R. Madhavan), who uses the pen name 'Indira' for his books. Indira (Simran) is Amudha's mother. She also has two younger brothers- Vinay and Akhil. Amudha's ninth birthday approaches and both of her parents take her to the temple. After their prayers, Thiruchelvan takes Amudha to Marina Beach and reveals the truth that she was adopted from a refugee camp in Rameswaram and is not their biological daughter. Amudha is very disturbed after hearing the news and begins distancing herself from the family. Indira's father criticizes them for revealing the truth to her, but Thiruchelvan and Indira are certain they have taken the right decision. Amudha asks her adoptive parents about her adoption.
The film then takes the viewer on a flashback to nine years earlier in Rameswaram, where Thiruchelvan, then a budding writer, constantly travels to the refugee camp and writes stories inspired by the people there. At one such instance, Thiruchelvan sees a newborn baby girl and writes a short story about her. Indira is his neighbour, and has always been interested in him. Thiruchelvan, after a while, finds the urge to adopt the girl, but realizes that he will not be allowed to do so until he is married. He then proposes to Indira in order to be able to adopt the baby. They get married and adopt the baby girl, naming her 'Amudha' at Indira's suggestion. A few years later, Indira gives birth to Vinay and Akhil.
Even after hearing this, Amudha is dissatisfied. She requests to meet her mother despite Indira's insistence that they can't possibly find her even if they wanted to. She and her cousin then go secretly to Rameshwaram to the orphanage from where she was adopted, to check the records. The family chases them there and is shocked at her stubbornness. Thiruchelvan gives in and agrees to take Amudha to Sri Lanka to find her birth mother. Leaving the two boys under the care of Indira's father, the trio travel to Sri Lanka and are greeted by Dr. Harold Vikramasinghe (Prakash Raj), a Sinhalese friend of Thiruchelvan who helps them track down Amudha's birth mother. Amudha's increasingly rude behavior towards Indira while she impatiently waits to meet her birth mother puts their relationship under strain. While taking a walk in the nearby jungle, Thiruchelvan and Vikramasinghe are captured by a group of LTTE rebels. Thiruchelvan immediately recites Tamil poetry and is identified as Indira by the group's leader (Pasupathy). Thiruchelvan explains his motives of coming to the country, mentioning the only evidence that he has regarding Amudha's birth mother is that her name is Shyama. The group leader arranges a meet and says he will bring Shyama to the designated spot. It is later revealed that Shyama is the group leader's sister who is also a part of the LTTE rebels living in seclusion.
The next day, Vikramasinghe, Amudha, Indira, and Thiruchelvan wait to meet Shyama, but a sudden series of bombings break out at their location as the Sri Lankan army tries to infiltrate the hideout of the rebels. Indira, while trying to escape, gets shot in her arm in the process. Amudha apologizes to Indira for her recent behavior and requests that they all return to India. The next day, the family leaves for the airport but unexpectedly, Indira requests that they drive through the meeting spot one more time. As they wait, Shyama arrives. Amudha gives Shyama a photo album and asks Shyama a series of questions, some of which Shyama cannot or will not answer. As the meeting comes to an end, Amudha begs Shyama to come back with her to Madras but Shyama tearfully refuses saying that she has work to do in Sri Lanka and that someday there will be peace in the country and when that day comes Amudha should return then.
The film ends with Thiruchelvan, Amudha, and Indira hugging each other as Shyama leaves, and a teary-eyed Amudha kisses her parents, re-affirming her love for them.
- Madhavan as Thiruchelvan, also known by the pen-name Indira (his wife's name)
- Simran as Indira Thiruchelvan, Thiruchelvan's wife
- P. S. Keerthana as T.Amudha, the adopted daughter of Thiruchelvan and Indira
- Nandita Das as M. D. Shyama, Amudha's biological mother.
- Prakash Raj as Dr. Harold Vikramasinghe
- J. D. Chakravarthy as Dileepan, Amudha's biological father.
- Delhi Kumar as D. Ganesan
- Pasupathy as Pasupathy
- Bala Singh as Devanathan
- M. S. Bhaskar as Shankaralingam
- Sashikumar as suicide bomber
- Master Suraj as Vinayan
- Master Kethan as Akhilan
- Eswari Rao as another Shyama
- Mu Ramaswamy
- Kamala Krishnaswamy
- Siddharth as bus passenger (uncredited role)
- Shefali Chowdhury as refugee (uncredited role)
Like other Mani Ratnam projects, the film began production with very little official publicity in early 2001 with the media covering the project as either Manjal Kudai (Yellow Umbrella) or Kudaigal (Umbrellas). The film was reported of a trilogy of films based on love and peace in the backdrop of war after Roja (1992), Bombay (1995) and Dil Se (1998). The film was originally conceived as a taut racy thriller that centres on a script based on a female leader of a guerilla group - with Mani Ratnam later choosing to base the film on human relationships with the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Madhavan was signed up to play a leading role in the film, with the venture becoming his third straight Mani Ratnam project after Alaipayuthey and the Mani Ratnam production, Dumm Dumm Dumm. For the role of Indira, Mani Ratnam considered casting Rani Mukerji, Soundarya or relative newcomer Bhumika Chawla, before finalising Simran to portray the character. Madhavan and Simran thus shot for two films simultaneously together, as they had also been cast in K. Balachandar's Paarthale Paravasam as a married couple. Nandita Das was also hired for the film, making her debut in Tamil films, and in a later interview mentioned that the team shot for nearly thirteen hours a day. P. S. Keerthana, the second daughter of actors Parthiban and Seetha, was cast the child artiste in the film, while Prakash Raj was also hired to play a Sinhalese character. Mani Ratnam approached actor Vikram to make a special appearance as Keerthana's biological father in the film, but his refusal meant that J. D. Chakravarthy was later handed the role.
The title of the film was finally announced as Kannathil Muthammittal (A peck on the cheek) in July 2001, after a famous phrase from a poem written by Subramanya Bharathi. The shoot began in Chennai with a ten day schedule in the Besant Nagar area. Parts of the film shown to be Colombo in the film were shot in Puducherry. Further schedules were carried out in the forests of Kerala to depict the base of the LTTE in northern Sri Lanka. As most of the cast were non-native Tamil speakers, dubbing artistes were used with actresses Sukanya and Deepa Venkat lending their voices for Nandita Das and Simran respectively. Furthermore, Mounika lent her voice for Easwari Rao's character, while Thalaivasal Vijay spoke lines for Chakravarthy.
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