Several weeks ago, fans of “The Kandasamys” franchise were eager to catch the fourth instalment, “Kandasamys: The Baby”, on Netflix.
Ever since the first film, “Keeping Up with the Kandasamys”, was released on the big screen in July 2018, it earned a massive following. This was followed by “Kandasamys: The Wedding” and “Trippin' with the Kandasamys”, which dropped on the streaming platform in June 2021.
Of course, the anticipation built as everyone was keen to see what director Jayan Moodley, who also shared the screenplay credits, was going to come up with next.
And she didn’t disappoint by placing strong emphasis on parenting in several different ways in the fourth film.
Unlike the previous movies, where she went full throttle on the comedy, this soberingly dramatic offering, with Aya (Mariam Bassa) mostly contributing to the light-hearted moments, left some disappointed.
But as in life, you win some and you lose some.
The bonus for the cast and viewers was that it was filmed in picturesque Mauritius.
In this instalment, Prishen Naidoo (Madhushan Singh) and Jodi Kandsamy (Mishqah Parthiephal) welcome their firstborn - a daughter - after struggling to fall pregnant.
The parents on both sides, including Aya, were excited to see the latest addition to the family and to fawn over the little princess.
The husbands - Elvis Kandsamy (Koobeshan Naidoo) and Preggie Naidoo (Yugan Naidoo) - are caught in the middle of the unfolding drama.
In an interview with Moodley, Jailoshini Naidoo, who plays Jennifer Kandasamy, and Maeshni Naicker, who is cast as Shanti Naidoo, they unpacked their journey with the franchise.
At the outset of the interview, Moodley pointed out that she shared the screenplay credits with two cast members.
She said: “From a writing perspective, I have my co-writer Jaloshini sitting right here next to me. The writing team changed. I co-wrote with Jailoshini and Yugan, two of our cast members, who have just been the most incredible writing team.
“It was a big ask. It was their first screenplay. They went into the deep end and gave their absolute everything.”
Moodley added: “For me, it feels like we are coming to the end of an era. It certainly feels like the audience was ready for the baby no matter what.
“It was quite funny because after ‘Trippin’’ people stopped me to say they were glad we showed them Arsavan’s baby but we didn’t show them Prishen and Jodi’s baby.
“So the writing process is a very interesting one. We start with a clean slate but a not-so-clean slate. Clean slate because you want to give the audience a fresh story. But you want to stick to the K-formula.
“The world of the story is established with the Naidoos and the Kandasamys, the quirks and the nuances, and the community that they are from. All of that is so firmly embedded in the story.
“What we decided this time around was we really wanted some tears to flow and to take the audience on such an emotional rollercoaster that they are not just laughing but, at some point, there has to be some silence.
“We wanted to leave the audience with something to think about. And what better way than to get into the mother-child or a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship?
“For me, the film is so female-centric and it had to revolve around parenting in that way.”
Jennifer transitions from a protective to a critical mom in this movie.
Chuckling at the observation, Naidoo explained: “Jay (the director) spoke so much about the writing process. And I have to say thank you to her for giving us the opportunity. I mean, it was an opportunity of a lifetime and I will forever be grateful for that.
“It has been such a learning and growing process. As much as it was a long hard process, I think the fact that the three of us liked each other a lot, made it bearable and fun.
“As far as my character Jennifer is concerned, I think throughout the movie, we saw the very protective mom. Through it all, we all know that Jennifer is really a perfectionist.
“So it’s that whole thing with the tough love. Everything has to go according to plan. Jennifer can be a little anal at times.”
She continued: “In wanting everything to be so right, even for her daughter, and it all comes from that place of love and protection. Sometimes she gets it horribly wrong. She puts too much pressure, not only on her child but on herself as well.
“As Jayan said, this movie concentrates so much on parenting and it's the mother-and-child relationship between Shanti and her kids, Jennifer and her daughter, and Aya and her daughter-in-law.
“As much as she was critical and I think everyone will see, it comes again from a place of love, difficult to imagine sometimes when you see how critical she can be.
“I think many parents will look at Jennifer and think I think I do that, I think I’m doing it in my child’s best interest. But sometimes it might come across wrong. Through this story, you see her vulnerability and realisation as well.
“I think, in the end, when the vulnerability shows, I think it all comes together.”
When it came to the writing, the actress, renowned for her Aunty Rumba alter-ego, said she is big on drama and emotion and that she taped into her forte when co-writing the screenplay.
She added: “I think the movie has heart, fun and laughter.”
Naicker also weighed in on the challenges of parenting and how her character falls into the favouritism parent trap.
In the story, Shanti is always singing Prishen’s praises, leaving her younger son Desan (Vashir Kemraj) feeling neglected and, to compensate for it, becomes a school bully.
Naicker explained: “I think as a parent, especially Shanti, we always want to protect our children. We always want to see the best in them. This was a rude awakening for Shanti as well. She didn’t intentionally choose to favour one child over the other.
“Then she has this massive wake-up call. It is such a serious thing, we brought it out in the movie in so many different ways. We touched on different things in the mother and child relationship.
“A lot of parents are going to sit back and think, am I doing that? Am I a Shanti?”
∎ “Kandasamys: The Baby” is streaming on Netflix.