Direction: NA Nishad
Cast: Jaya Prada, Revathi, Nasser, Parthiban, Rekha, Anu Haasan, Chaams
The story of Keni (well) revolves around the water dispute between the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala because of a well. It’s a struggle of a docile lady who turns an activist (!) when water is denied for the people of her village. The story is narrated from the perspectives of three different journalists representing an English daily, a visual media and a women magazine.
Indira (Jaya Prada) loses her husband Hariharan who heads the geology department in a government office in Alapuzha after he was imprisoned for a fabricated case. She returns to her inherited home in the village of Puliyanmalai as per her husband’s last wish.
In a drought-struck region on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border at Puliyanmalai there, is one well that has perennial water, which is on Indira’s property. However, a twist comes in the form of a re-survey where the portion of the land with the well goes to Kerala and only Indira is allowed to use water from the well from TN. Thus starts the water struggle for the villagers.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to good-natured Shaktivel (R Parthiban), the local panchayat head, Suganthi (Anu Haasan), her ailing son ,who has a strange disease and which requires water for his survival, and an IAS officer Aruna (Revathy) who narrates part of the story. Then there’s a local politician (Thalai Vaasal Vijay) who wants to take advantage of the situation after evacuating the village.
How Indira from a humble beginning turns aggressive, and fights the powerful forces to achieve her goal of getting water to her villagers forms the crux.
Though the plot is strong and the director has handpicked ace actors like Jaya Prada, Revathi, Nasser, Parthiban, Anu Haasan, Rekha, it is in his execution that he errs. There are umpteen numbers of characters walking in and out that adds to the confusion. Alright, the story is happening in the TN-Kerala border, but making half of the Tamil version in Malayalam is a bit disturbing. Either we read the subtitles and miss the visuals, or vice-versa.
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We wonder why Nishad chose Jaya Prada for this central character of a hard-hitting woman who should ideally carry the entire film on her shoulders. But, most part of the film, Jaya Prada looks timid and submissive. Hence her portrayal is just about adequate. Others like Revathy, Nasser, Anu Haasan, Parthiban (in his usual mockery style), and Thalai Vaasal Vijay do their parts well. The title song sung by KJ Yesudas and SP Balasubramaniyam in Malayalam – Tamil mix in Jayachandran’s music is pleasant. Sam C.S has done the background score.