Direction: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari
Cast: Amala Paul, Revathi, Samuthirakani, Yuvasri.
Much like Jeethu Joseph who remade his original Malayalam work Drishyam in Tamil, debutant Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has helmed a Tamil version of her gripping Hindi film, Nil Battey Sannata.
Nil Battey Sannata featured Swara Bhaskar as the poor maid in Mumbai who dreams of her daughter becoming an IAS Officer and even picked up an acting award for her portrayal. The movie premiered at the Silk Road International Film Festival in Fuzhou last year opened to Indian theatres this year and overall fared favourably.
Amma Kanakku thus suffers in comparison, with its host of actors not quite matching up to their Hindi counterparts.
Amala Paul steps into Bhaskar’s slippers but fails to shine. In fairness, Bhaskar has shown phenomenal range – from a modern woman who enjoys a smoke and drink in Tanu Weds Manu to the lowly maidservant in Nil Bhattey Sannata.
Similarly, Revathi, though a dynamic artist with a fantastic slate of work to her credit, does poorly against Ratna Pathak Shah.
In Tiwari’s original, Pankaj Tripathi is brilliant as the headmaster and mathematics teacher, combining sarcasm and wit, and conveying distress and elation with comic finesse. But in Tamil, Samuthirakani, despite an impressive show in Visaaranai as a scrupulous cop, makes a great effort but doesn’t quite replicate Tripathi’s dexterity.
However, on its own, Amma Kanakku is a well-made film about the importance of girls’ education.
Shanti, a housemaid, is dejected when her daughter Abhinaya (Yuvasri) never seems to crack mathematics, and almost makes up her mind that a maid’s daughter will be a maid. Just like a driver’s son is destined to be a driver. But Revathi’s character reminds Shanti of late president Abdul Kalam; he should have been a fisherman since his father was one.
Shanti joins the school and even sits along with her daughter to goad the girl into a state of hope. When the mother begins to score impressive grades in the subject, the daughter is consumed by jealousy, and a competitive streak works into her psyche. The rest of story pans out from there.
Ultimately, Amma Kanakku may not be one among the annals of great cinema, but it is a noble story that Tiwari narrates with a fair degree of conviction.