Part I, Sense and Sensibility, cont’d

Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It) is a Tamil-language film, and the Region 1 edition has optional English subtitles.  It is based on Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility, and stars well-known Bollywood/Kollywood actors Aishwarya Rai and Mammootty, who play the Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon characters, respectively.  Anyone who goes into this film expecting another Bride & Prejudice will be surprised (whether that surprise is pleasant or unpleasant is up to the individual) because this is a far more traditionally Indian film than B&P is (B&P was made for a Western audience, and KK was not), meaning that, at any moment, the characters will break into song and we’ll have a 5-or-so-minute-long  song and dance number that has very little to do with the actual story.

If you’ve never seen an Indian film, read what John Podhoretz of Commentary and The Weekly Standard has to say on the subject:

Bollywood movies are governed by a series of strict conventions that make very little sense if you haven’t been raised on a diet of them. The most notable convention is that no matter what the film, no matter the genre, no matter the circumstances transpiring in the plot, there will, every 30 minutes or so, be a huge production number. Even a horror movie will take a break from the tension it’s trying to build for a song and dance. And because these are Indian popular songs, with the ululating monotonic vibrato that derives from the tradition called carnatic music, they have tended to assault rather than soothe the non-subcontinental ear.

The same holds true for “Kollywood” (the southern Indian film industry), and KK is no exception.

Several of the actors (including Ms. Rai) are dubbed in their speaking roles, and, everyone is dubbed for the singing (this is always the case in Indian films).  As an aside, the fact that Rai’s character gets a job as one of those singers always makes me laugh.

(Warning: Spoilers!)

The plot is very similar to that of S&S; it’s not slavishly literal, but it’s close enough that anyone who knows the original story will notice the similarities (and differences) immediately.  Two sisters, one very open and emotional and the other more quiet and reserved, live with their mother and younger sister in Southern India.  Their mother married against her father’s wishes and, now that she is widowed, she and her daughters live with her father, who is very ill and needs constant care.  The father keeps talking about a trunk on the other side of the room, but nobody takes him seriously and the trunk remains where it is.  When the grandfather dies, the trunk is opened and it contains the will, which leaves everything to “Mrs. Dashwood’s” brother, a man who has not visited his father for 10 years.  The scene from the book where the wife convinces her husband not to help out the “Dashwoods” is included, and it is played out very well here.  The sister-in-law is just as nasty a piece of work as Fanny Dashwood, which pleased me no end.  The “Dashwoods” are asked to leave the house and they head off to Madras with not much more than the clothes on their backs.

“Elinor” is in love with a budding film director, who swears he will come back to marry her, but only after he’s made his first movie.  His well-to-do parents don’t want him to marry her because of her family situation, and they certainly don’t want their son to be a film director.  They want him to stay in the family business and be an engineer.  “Elinor” becomes the family’s breadwinner, but their living situation is still very tenuous.  “Brandon” helps “Marianne” get a job as a singer, but she still cannot forget about her “Willoughby,” who appears here as a white-collar criminal à la Bernie Madoff.  We see “Willoughby” choose money over “Marianne.” We see “Marianne” become ill (she walks into a manhole during a rainstorm and almost drowns) and realize that “Brandon” is the man for her.

Most of the original plot elements remain, but they are very rushed because the “Dashwoods” aren’t forced to leave their home until midway through the movie.  Other than the rushed story, I love this movie.  I’m not a big fan of Indian singing, so I tend to mute the song-and-dance numbers and just read the subtitles (one number that I don’t mute is actually really fun, and merges “Edward’s” longing for “Elinor” with the movie he is making — and its star) but I still thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Kandukondain Kandukondain is hard to find in North America.  My own copy is, of course, in storage. *sigh* Blockbuster doesn’t have it at their website, and I cannot imagine that their stores would.  Netflix says you have to wait for it, but luckily for our Jane Austen Odyssey, the Sarasota public library has three copies and I was able to borrow one (as an aside, according to the catalog, one of the other copies is also out on loan!).  If you are interested in trying interlibrary loan, WorldCat says that 464 libraries in the world own it (most of them in the US).

Good luck finding the movie and, if you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.