A Peck on the Cheek

Have you ever wondered why 9-year olds do not get to make life-or-death decisions? Or why we humans give so much weight to experience? Or why researching about a place is good before you end up there? If you missed the basic common sense course right after birth that covered these important questions, here is a refresher - A Peck on the Cheek. The movie an emotionally conceived idea that lacked any connection to reality, which in turn was produced by someone that had never been exposed to any form of mortal danger. It is an empty story masquerading as intellectual insight, that trivializes the real issues it purports to explore.

The movie is set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan conflict. G. Thiruchelvan (Madhavan) and Indra (Simran) live in the South-Indian city of Chennai, and are raising three children. The eldest, played brilliantly by P.S. Keerthana, is Amudha who was adopted by the couple. On the day of Amudha's ninth birthday, in a fit of misguided honesty, the parents reveal this to her, and that she was left by her mother who originated from the conflict ridden region in the north of Sri Lanka.

As the child fixates upon the identity of her birth mother, the parents decide, in another fit of propriety that they are going to take the girl and see her birth mother. Never mind that all they had to go were the name of the town and the first name of the mother. Also, forget the fact that the region is an active war zone, which has produced one of the deadliest civilian casualties in modern time. Once in the country, the three begin the search, surviving suicide blasts, artillery fire and a small arms ambush. Again, it is never clear if this is merely misguided ideology or some sense of guilt that causes the parents of three children to take upon this perilous journey to satisfy the fantasies of a 9-year old.

Notwithstanding the child-rearing faux pas, the movie is stuck somewhere between an award hunting indie movie and a populist Bollywood flick. That results in these random uncomfortable songs, in the middle of a maddening narrative. Unfortunately A.R. Rahman fails to work his magic with the music for the movie.

What does redeem the movie are the performances. Even with a hole ridden plot, the main characters work their magic. Madhavan does a good job displaying his character's stubborn strength with a driven sort of love. Simran is not terrible. But the best of the lot is the 9-year old, that makes you want to scream out in frustration. And thank our stars that their lot does not run the world.

March 31, 2011


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