The story is set against the backdrop of a global recession in United Arab Emirates. The story revolves around a thriller –- revenge plot that has resulted from the recession. The story explores the basic nature of cruelty and love in human nature through the lives of four individuals: John David (Mohanlal), Anantharaman (Anoop Menon), Raghuchandran (Pratap Pothan) and Kuruvila Mathew (Atul Kulkarni).Mohanlal as John David
Anoop Menon as Anantharaman
Atul Kulkarni as Kuruvila Mathew
Jose as Joseph
Pratap Pothan as Hilltop Raghu
Honey Rose as Anna
Nikita Thukral as Reenu Kuruvila
Sheelu Abraham as Revathy
Innocent as Natesan
Santhosh Keezhattoor as Anantharaman's friend
Anjali Aneesh Upasana
Balaji Sarma as Subash, driver of Kuruvila Mathew
Akshara Kishor as Parvathy
The film was officially announced at the end of January 2015, which was said to be a revenge-thriller genre story revolving around two individuals with revengeful mind. Mohanlal, Padmakumar and Suresh Babu were collaborating for the second time after Shikkar (2010) which was also a revenge-thriller. In the beginning of February 2015, M. Padmakumar said to The Times of India, that he want to shoot the movie in a realistic way, "Kanal revolves around two people who are stuck in Dubai, affected by the recession, and are now back to God's Own Country. The two don't share a similar lifestyle and have had different experiences in Dubai. What happens after they meet in Kerala forms the plot of the story". The filming was then said to start in August 2015. In May 2015, Padmakumar further explained about the subject, "The story unfolds during a train journey. Two unknown people meet in the train and how this journey changes their lives forms the plot." According to Padmakumar, about Mohanlal's character, "There will be multiple variations in his get-up as the movie will capture three to four stages of his life". The film is marketed with the tagline "Every end has an old beginning".
A popular young actor was said to share screen space alongside Mohanlal in an equally important role. The production team asked suggestions for names from the audience through social platforms. Speculated names of Prithviraj Sukumaran and Dulquer Salmaan surfaced. Finally Anoop Menon was fixed. After writer Suresh Babu narrated the script to Anoop, he was immediately signing on the project, after his excitements about the film. Anoop who had earlier done few small roles in some Mohanlal films is doing an equally important full-length character opposite him. Anoop announced the news through his Facebook page on 3 May. Atul Kulkarni will also essay a key role. It was reported that he will play an intense role and will be an antagonist. Nikita Thukral is making her comeback into Mollywood with the film. It was the first time she was working with Mohanlal. Nikita said, she has combination scenes with Mohanlal and Kulkarni, which is a love triangle. She completed her shooting portions in Kerala with June 2015. Honey Rose shared screen space with Mohanlal for the first time, she played the role of his wife who is a teacher in a Doha-based international school. Few of her scenes were shot around Middle East. Innocent plays a bar owner who is in search of Nagamanikyam to escape his ill fortune.
The film's launch and pooja function was held on 21 May 2015 on Mohanlal's birthday. But Mohanlal was not present at the event as he was in a short vacation in Japan after his tight film schedules. The principal photography commenced on 22 May 2015 in Kochi. The filming was supposed to start from the first week of June, but got preponed due to an undisclosed reason. Mohanlal joined the sets on 26 May.
In June 2015, a picture of Mohanlal kissing actor Innocent in his cheek inside a train compartment which was a recreation of a movie scene from 1990 Malayalam film No.20 Madras Mail was well received in social networking sites. The sequence was shot inside the Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad. The first schedule was completed in Hyderabad where Ramoji Film City was a major location. The second schedule which went on in Kochi mainly featured actors including Anoop Menon, Sheelu Abraham and Honey Rose.
The last schedule was at Qatar. After receiving permissions, the team started shooting in Doha as per the schedule on 17 July 2015. The shooting was held at locations in Doha Corniche, Banana Island and the Sealine Beach Resort at Mesaieed. An Indian school and a hospital was also part of the shoot. About the filming locations Padmakumar spoke to the newspaper Qatar Tribune, "The beauty of Doha has hardly been shown in Indian films. Therefore, we have selected a few beautiful locations for shooting the film". The filming continued there for two weeks. The filming was wrapped on 6 August 2015 in Doha.
In September 2015, almost all post-production work was completed with only Mohanlal's dubbing part being left as he was working in another film. By the time, the production team released a first look motion poster on 8 September 2015 via YouTube. It was the first time that a Mohanlal film released a motion poster as part of the promotion work. The moster of 9 seconds shows Mohanlal in the backdrop of Middle East city Doha which was shown with the tagline – 'Every end has an old beginning'.
The music was released by Muzik 247 on 17 September 2015 in an event organised at Hotel Travancore Court, Kochi at 7 pm. The soundtrack album was composed by Ouseppachan and Vinu Thomas ("Oru Venal Kaataai"), with lyrics written by Dr. Madhu Vasudevan and Prakash Maraar. It featured five songs, four of them were composed by Ouseppachan and one by Vinu Thomas. Directors Joshiy, Kamal and Thampi Kannamthanam were special guests at the function. At the presence of the film crew and other invited guests, Joshiy released the music.
The first video song "Oru Venal Kaataai" was released online by Muzik 247 on 7 October evening. The song features Anoop Menon, Sheelu Abraham and child artist Akshara Kishor. The song penned by Prakash Maraar and music composed by Vinu Thomas was sung by K. S. Chithra and Sudeep Kumar. The video of song "Pathukke Entho" featuring Mohanlal and Honey Rose was released on 16 October.
The film released in Vijayadashami day on 22 October 2015, in more than 100 theatres in Kerala. An official teaser of span 40 seconds was released on 6 October 2015,Filmibeat.com gave it a positive review calling it "highly promising" and praised the dialogue in the teaser. On 10 October, the official trailer was unveiled on YouTube and received positive responses in social medias. The television satellite right was sold pre-release to Surya TV. The film's DVD was released on 2 January 2016.
The film received mixed reviews from the critics and audience alike. Akhila Menon of Filmibeat.com rated the film 2.5/5 and praised Mohanlal's performance and cinematography, but was critical about the film editing, songs, and screenplay. She said, "Director Padmakumar and scenarist S Suresh Babu have succeeded in depicting a decent crime thriller. But the screenplay fails to keep the audience engaged after a point and falls into a slow pace at certain point." Nelson K. Paul of Malayala Manorama rated the film 2.5/5 and concluded the review saying, "Kanal claims to be a revenge thriller but the writing falters. Loopholes are aplenty in the plot. Even if one ignores them, the movie has very less to keep the viewers engaged", he also criticized the songs. A critic from Behindwoods.com rated the film 2.5/5 and said, "Done differently this movie would have approached greatness, but is a bit of a letdown, especially in the second half." The critic praised the technical department but described the background music as "loud, jarring and is a throwback to the 1980s." Sachin Jose of International Business Times awarded 2.5/5 and praised Mohanlal's "remarkable" performance but criticized the screenplay. He said, "Though the film failed to create twists of a typical thriller movie, it was the facial expressions and gestures by Mohanlal that kept alive the suspenses throughout the film", also remarked "A tighter screenplay would have made the film more engaging and given the viewers a more thriller-like experience". Paresh C. Palicha of Rediff.com rated 2.5/5 and stated "This film is made in a technically slipshod manner. It is the actors – led by Mohanlal – who strive hard to hold it together and almost succeed making it a decent watch", also added "Mohanlal gives an effortless performance of a jovial man, who turns into a barbarian by the half time". Chandrakanth Viswanath of The New Indian Express wrote "It would have been a better outing if the movie was slimmer by chiseling out a few scenes". Sony V. Mathew of Mathrubhumi stated "By refraining from action scenes the director did his best to bring in that Hollywood style craft. On the scripting side the exaggerated dependence on ‘fate’ to narrate the story is questionable".
The opening day collection in Kerala box office was ₹81 lakh (US$130,000). The film is said to have collected approximately ₹2 crore (US$310,000) in three days from Kerala. It grossed ₹4.76 crore (US$740,000) from theaters in 14 days of release.