If you're familiar with the sibling rivalry between Sangavi and Raghavi, the rib-tickling banter of Pandi, Pachai, Joe and Bala, the high jinks of the well-heeled Vineet, Unni, Rishi and Krish — innocent fun with a scheming Principal as backdrop, you have been watching "Kanaa Kaanum Kaalangal" aired on Vijay TV at 8 p.m. KKK, with high school life at its heart, is a sitcom in which boys are everyday boys conditioned only by their screen backgrounds. They jibe, fight, throw impulsive pranks, forget quickly and move on. The girls are not obsessed by the need to be "good" and parents have shades of grey in their portrayals. Change the language, the episodes could have been set in any part of the country.
Your surprise loses its edge when you discover it is being directed by Film Institute-trained Prabhu Kannaa whose "Paramapadam" won him a national Best Director award and "LN Chandru 4th B" was on a festival panorama. Watch him work and you know why both K. Balachander and Balu Mahendra called to pat him. "It took us eight months to get it on the floor," he said. "I spent the first two weeks de-toxing the cast of overacting and exaggeration. Getting them to speak naturally was a challenge." Said L. Harendra, senior project executive, Timeframes, "The groundwork was done by Vijay TV. They picked the actors from the 5,000 applications received in response to an ad. A two-day workshop taught them how to face the camera."
None of the actors except one is a school student. Sanghavi (Monisha) is a BDS intern, others are in college or are employed. "Schedules are a nightmare," agreed Prabhu. "We work around college and work hours." But not all are greenhorns. You've seen Raghavi (Hemalatha) in "Basha" and "Suryavamsam" and as kutti Kaveri in "Chitti."
Pandi (Lingeswaran) has acted in several movies. For all of them, however, the serial is turning out to be a fresh experience. "I'm learning to act all over again," said Raghavi. "We've got our school life back," said the boys. "This is no different from what we do off the sets."
The serial's strongest point is the dialogue. "We collected 200-300 phrases from students," said Prabhu's wife Sheeba who designed the uniforms. "Brahma is our writer. The boys contribute too. The focus will be on friendship, though there's a subtle `crush' angle."
Will they do a mega serial flip-flop? "No," said Prabhu. "I came into this reluctantly. I'll pack up when the students finish high school."