Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek, கன்னத்தில் முத்தமிட்டால்) 2002 is an award-winning Tamil language feature film directed by Mani Ratnam. It stars P. S. Keerthana, R. Madhavan, Simran Bagga, Nandita Das and Prakash Raj. The film's score and soundtrack were composed by A. R. Rahman. The film's title is a famous phrase from a poem written by Subramanya Bharathy, which literally means a peck on the cheek. Mani Ratnam presents a glimpse of the Island of Sri Lanka at civil war, through the eyes of a child of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage, who desires to meet her biological mother.

The film premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, and was selected as India's official entry to the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It also received a strong reception when screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2003.


Thiruchelvan (R. Madhavan), an engineer and writer by occupation, and Indra (Simran Bagga), a TV Newsreader, live in Chennai, Tamil Nadu with their three children, the eldest of whom is Amudha (P. S. Keerthana). Amudha is surrounded by love, a secure family and many friends. On her ninth birthday, Amudha learns from her father that she is an adopted child. Her parents came across her as a baby at a Red Cross camp in Rameshwaram. She further learns that her biological mother was displaced by the war in Sri Lanka just before giving birth, and the current whereabouts of her mother Shyama (Nandita Das) and her father Dileepan (J.D Chakravarthy) are unknown. Amudha intent on finding her biological parents, eventually convinces her adopted parents to take her on a search mission. Amudha and her parents arrive in a war-torn Sri Lanka. Dr. Wikramesinghe, (Prakash Raj), a friendly host, guides their quest to the North East, where they witness the brutal conditions and harsh realities of an ongoing civil strife on the island.

Critical reception

Kannathil Muthamittal met with acclaim upon release, with Ratnam and P. S. Keerthana's performance as the young Amudha particularly gaining praise. Channel 4 Films described the film as "stunning...thought provoking," and Time Out Chicago declared, "Ratnam has a ravishing eye." The Chicago Reader observed "Ratnam's passionate conviction fortifies the tragic and inspirational aspects of the story" and the Chicago Tribune wrote "Realistic, intelligently written and often quite moving."

Critique of Film

Preliminary thoughts:

-Perhaps the young girl was spoiled by the parents, who are willing to do anything for her, which almost leads to all of their deaths when they are caught up in the Sri Lankan civil war.

-The father, an idealistic individual almost sacrificed his family for this little girl.

-It is thus a story of near tragedy amongst a background of civil war strife.

-The insurrection of the Tamilians may be perfectly justified considering historical events. Still the father put his family needlessly at risk for one child.

-We could alternately look at it as a munificent gesture to fulfill the deep longing and curiosity of the child.

-Idealism in the face of extremely negative circumstance attracts negativity to all one loves. I am referring here to the father and his family.

-It was lucky that his wife did not die instead of being wounded.

-The opening sequence of the child shows how she is a very special child, a difficult child, but also a spoiled one.

-The story presents social forces that are much greater than her own individual curiosity.

-The father's friend and the church help the family when they are caught up in the war. It is their little bit of luck amongst swirling negative forces.

-The conditions under which the child is born -- where she is force to India to escape the conflict and gives birth to the child in India, only to be forced back to Sri Lanka is an indicator of what would happen in the last third of the story when the family goes back to find her mother and get caught in the fighting. It is a parallel, and an initial indicator of the outcome.

-The wife is weak and is dependent on the force of her author/idealistic husband. He even marries her for the purpose of securing the adoption of the young girl. He puts everyone at risk. It is true that she falls in love with the child; but it is her husband and his article on the matter that brings her to that point.

-The wife innocently enough only wants the love of the daughter, but the child represents much larger issues and forces at work, and is almost the victim when she is wounded.

-There is an inner urge in the child to discover the truth of her being, which lures in her family who nearly pay the ultimate sacrifice.

-War wreaks havoc over people's lives. Its dark energies overwhelm our own capacities and expressions of goodness.

-Perhaps we could say that India's involvement in the war -- represented by the father/writer --will only heap trouble on them. (They -- the Indians -- can only aspire for its peaceful outcome.)

-The Tamilians in India are of the same blood as those Tamilians in Sri Lanka who are rebelling through terror, which attracts their suffering when through the family they search for the daughter's mother in the midst of a war environment.

I need to watch the film at least once more to verify these comments, as I may have a very different perspective then. The movements of events in terms of life principles – i.e. character of life -- also have to be explored.

--Roy 18:19, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

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