When Kovai Sarala joins Lawrence in Kanchana-2 for her opening scene, I realised with mild consternation that I’d actually developed some fondness for the franchise. Their scenes — just like in Muni 2: Kanchana — border on the ridiculous, the impractical, but are funny nevertheless, or perhaps because of it. Which adult jumps onto the hip of his mother at the mere mention of a ghost?
This is a film whose hero has no problem playing a character who wears adult diapers when watching horror films. It is this ridiculousness that makes the scenes that have a frightened Lawrence running for life enjoyable and reminiscent of the eccentricity of Kung Fu Hustle. They are crude, crass, but also in a way, wacky, for the most part. I say most part because I certainly didn’t find the homosexual jokes funny, nor the ‘body’ joke that was already cracked by Goundamani and Senthil decades ago.
Quite curiously, Kanchana-2, despite being promoted as a sequel, has nothing to do with Muni 2: Kanchana. It’s another episode in Raghava’s (Raghava Lawrence) life, as Gautham Menon would probably put it.
The Tamil industry has changed much since Muni 2 in 2011, with many succeeding films milking the comedy-horror genre. In fact, ghosts in Tamil cinema have become so commonplace that they even command an opening song now, as in ‘Sillatta Pillatta’ — the song that has Lawrence dancing with his brother, Elvin. Maybe because one ghost can’t cut it any more, Lawrence brings to the table at least five of them, with two slugging it out in an important sequence whose graphics reminded me of the Mortal Kombat games. Raghava makes the distinction between the ghosts clear: “Nee saadha pei, naan saami pei” (You’re an ordinary ghost, I’m a divine ghost).
Jump scares are littered throughout. If there’s some prolonged quiet, you know it’s time for one. Sure, it’s among the cheapest horror techniques, but it wouldn’t have been half as disappointing had there been other scares. As for the love tracks, both (with Divya in the present and Ganga in the flashback) are unconvincing, especially the latter. I don’t know what the best time is to approach a woman with amorous intent, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t when the girl’s father has just committed suicide and she’s mourning.
It was important for Kanchana-2 to do something novel to succeed — like Sarathkumar playing a transgender in the earlier trendsetting film. The ghost, this time, doesn’t haunt a house. In the words of Divya (Taapsee Pannu), a television director, “Ghosts in houses are passé. Let’s shoot a ghost in a beach resort.” But the problem is, even that is done. Wasn’t it a beach resort that a ghost haunted in Darling?
The flashback, despite Nithya Menen’s best efforts at portraying a physically challenged Ganga, does little to shock and prepare you for the climax. The acting isn’t the problem; the predictable story is. The thaali sentiment is revived for some reason. Kanchana-2 may get away with such ideas, but Kanchana-3, which is hinted at before the end credits, needs to do better if the franchise has to survive. It'd be a pity if it didn't.