Critic’s Rating : / 5
Agent Kannayiram Movie Review : A visually distinct, but narratively bland crime film
Agent Kannayiram Movie Review: Given the quirky blend of comedy and crime in the 2019 Telugu film Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya, it is no wonder that Santhanam, who has been trying to make his mark as a leading man, was drawn towards it. But Agent Kannayiram’s director Manoj Beedha delivers a film that is very different from the original visually and totally. This is definitely not a lazy frame-by-frame remake, and the cinematographers – Theni Eswar and Saravanan Ramasamy – ensure that the film remains interesting visually, with their emphasis on shadows, tilted angles and wide frames.
The film opens with a prologue involving the origins of Kannayiram (Santhanam) as a detective. It also doubles up as a backstory that provides an emotional undercurrent to a case that Kannayiram starts investigating in the present – involving unidentified dead bodies turning up near railway tracks. As he starts digging around, he gets into trouble, first with the cops and then with men who want to finish him off for good. Can he crack the mystery and also get closure personally?
As he did with his debut film Vanjagar Ulagam, Manoj Beedha serves up a stylistically unique film in Agent Kannayiram, a noir-meets-melodrama-meets-western pastiche, whose formal ambitions cannot mask the blandness of its storytelling. For one, the melodrama is often at odds with the hipness with which the filmmaker wants to narrate the film. And the hipness seems to be a derivative of Hollywood tropes.. a troubled protagonist living in a derelict caravan, and driving around in a vintage car, while dressed up in a trench coat and fedora. With Santhanam playing the lead, there seems to have also been attempts at creating the brand of humour the actor is known for (perhaps to assuage audiences who walk in expecting a Santhanam comedy), which is tonally even more jarring. Having loud and brash comedians like Pugazh and Redin Kingsley only makes it worse.
Throughout the first half, the film seems indecisive on what it wants to be and the jagged editing only leads to what feels like disorienting narrative jumps. Things do get better in the second half when it thankfully ditches attempts at pandering to fans and focuses on narrating the modus operandi behind the crime, but even here, the scenes lack enough tension to offer us a gripping tale.