‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ movie review: A vexingly dull, caricaturish rom-com that tests your patience

Ashok Selvan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, and Vasanth Ravi in a scene from ‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ | Photo Credit: Jio Cinema

One might speculate on what film director Priya V envisioned when she created ‘Pon Ondru Kanden’: a breezy narrative on how two comically antagonistic middle-aged fellows bury their lifelong grudge, only to rediscover it upon falling for the same woman. Despite this premise lacking originality, expectations lingered for a rejuvenated display of charm – the kind Priya’s earlier works exuded – combined with a strong ensemble cast and a splash of contemporary wit.

Regrettably, ‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ strays far from those hopes, delivering a mirthless, frustrating, and haphazard rendition of a romantic comedy. Envisage a film replete with caricatures, where mature adults are depicted more like overblown animations than believable characters. The entirety of the experience is akin to wading through a stagnant pool of rehashed character tropes. Ashok Selvan’s Siva, a city slicker, and Vasanth Ravi’s Sai, a provincial youth looking after his ailing mother, reinvent their childhood rivalry into friendship during a school gathering – a transition that is questionably abrupt and under-explained.

The film leans heavily on stereotypes to contrast the protagonists’ backgrounds, pitting Siva’s metropolitan playboy lifestyle against Sai’s rural naivety and awkward interactions with modern urban life. These stereotypes bedeck ‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ with redundancy.

This superficial approach is not spared even with the female protagonist, Sandy, aka Sundari (Aishwarya Lakshmi), a chef caught in a banal love triangle with the two male leads. Sandy becomes a plot device, a puppet entangled within the whims of two irksome caricatures instead of a character with depth.

Pon Ondru Kanden (Tamil)

Director: Priya V

Cast: Ashok Selvan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Vasanth Ravi, Sachu, Deepa Shankar

Runtime: 120 mins

Storyline: Two former childhood foils turn friends as adults, only for an old rivalry to reignite when both fall for the same woman.

The predictable, trope-filled plot offers little but worn-out cliches. Conveniences abound, often ushering the characters into each other’s orbits via Shiva’s obstetric workplace. The casting of Vasanth as Sai might have been designed as a departure from his previous roles, but the execution falls short, leaving the audience to question the character’s authenticity and relevance.

A brief respite is found when the story allows us to escape Sai’s narrative to witness Shiva and Sandy in a medical camp setting that is aesthetically pleasing, where Priya’s admiration for the director Mani Ratnam subtly surfaces. Yet, the development of Shiva and Sandy’s subplot post this scene is, again, a worrying return to problematic writing.

Observing the progress within the Tamil film industry, especially in the romance domain, one can’t help but draw comparisons. Successful films like ‘Good Night’ and ‘Lover’, along with the particularly inspiring Malayalam film ‘Premalu’, have set a benchmark by captivating the younger generation through heartfelt storytelling and humor. Such standards make one long for Priya’s take on a modern, relatable romantic comedy – yet ‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ falls regrettably short of achieving that aspiration.

‘Pon Ondru Kanden’ is indeed a far cry from its potential, currently available for streaming on Jio Cinema.

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