‘Kurangu Pedal’ movie review: An off-balanced yet heart-warming tale on childhood aspirations

A still from ‘Kurangu Pedal’ 
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” said a character from the classic comedy series The Office. Going through such multiple scenarios is probably the very definition of growing up, and every time we take a trip down those memory lanes, they almost always put smiles on our faces. That’s why nostalgia sells, and that’s why Kurangu Pedal (bankrolled by actor Sivakarthikeyan) works despite its limitations.

Set in the Katheri village of Salem during the 80s, Kurangu Pedal focuses on the trials and tribulations of Mariappan (Santhosh Velmurugan) who wants to spend the summer holidays mastering the skill of riding a bicycle. But it’s easier said than done; he finds it difficult to amass money to pay for the rental bicycle, his friends who were supposed to tag along on this adventure decide to hang out with a rich kid instead, and Mariappan’s father (who has his own reasons for never cycling) is anything but receptive of his son’s aspiration.

Knowing that the plot is wafer-thin, filmmaker Kamalakannan makes sure the objective of the film is fulfilled even before the intermission, so the rest of the film focuses on the repercussions of Mariappan’s petty mistakes. The film juxtaposes the escapades of Mariappan with those of his father Kandhasaami (Kaali Venkat) who gambles with his hard-earned money, as well as the misadventures of a drunkard (Jenson Dhivakar) with Military (Prasanna Balachandran) an ex-serviceman-turned-cycle repair shop owner — a probable hat tip to Sivaji Ganesan’s character from Dhavani Kanavugal.

Kurangu Pedal (Tamil)

Director: Kamalakannan

Cast: Santhosh Velmurugan, Kaali Venkat, Raghavan, Gnanasekan, Prasanna Balachandran, Jenson Dhivakar

Runtime: 119 minutes

Storyline: A boy faces multiple odds in his quest to learn to ride a cycle during the summer holidays

The film, when it relies a lot on the nostalgic aspects of its time and backdrop, works wonderfully. Be it splashing ink at others on the last day of school, kicking stones while walking or playing with marbles, beating the heat by swimming in all the available water bodies, and indulging in kuchi ice or stoning trees to get a handful of delicious Madras Thorn, the film is filled with enough elements for those who grew up in the 80s and 90s to reminisce a bygone era.

Kurangu Pedal, based on Rasi Alagappan’s short story ‘Cycle,’ works more as moments rather than an overall product. We are introduced to Mariappan’s married elder sister who is living in a nearby village, and there’s a beautiful scene involving an injured Mariappan reaching her doorstep for money, only to stay back because she makes kesari for her dear brother. In another wonderful scene, Mariappan bumps into his father’s childhood friend who narrates Kandhasaami’s bicyclophobia to his son as a Bommalattam act. But the film jumps from one sequence to another without lingering on its finest of scenes, which constantly distracts us.

This, along with amateur acting from the majority of its cast, turns some of the moments that are meant to feel organic into something artificial. The interpersonal relationships Mariappan shares with his friends or family members are also not established enough for the emotional sequences to work. Unlike Koozhangal,in which we were one with the child’s emotions, here we are pushed to be a mere spectator of our protagonist’s actions and the impending repercussions.

A still from ‘Kurangu Pedal’ 

A still from ‘Kurangu Pedal’ 
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

What eventually makes up for it, apart from the obvious feel-goody nature the film banks on, is its humour. More than the confrontations between Military and the drunkard which get saturated after a while, it’s the innocent yet interesting conspiracy theories the children believe that make you break into a smile. Be it believing Military stores a loaded gun in his toolbox, to being completely convinced that the ex-serviceman jumped from the top of Mount Everest to shoot down enemies, the credulousness of the kids makes for some of the best scenes. The film also features some brilliant lines on cycling which double up as life lessons: like the one on the difference between a top and a wheel; a top spins on the same spot, but a wheel always moves forward.

Director Kamalakannan knows exactly what the film’s strengths are and plays to them mostly. But every time he digresses, the lack of cohesiveness sets in. Nevertheless, with its heart in the right place, Kurangu Pedal manages to be a heart-warming watch that is sure to make you recollect your childhood memories. Nostalgia happens to be the key to this cycle that doesn’t know when to stop!

Kurangu Pedal is currently running in theatres

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