Review: Mayakkam Enna

Dhanush and Richa Gangopadhyay in Selvaraghavan’s Mayakkam Enna.

There’s no mayakkam here!

Rating: *

I wonder if Selvaraghavan was facing the deadline crisis. Mayakkam Enna began well but ended with plenty of loose ends that would make a spaghetti meal for four. Firstly, why would Kumudham magazine have its cover photo as an elephant and not a Tamil actress? And, the way the magazine lands in the hands of a talent-hungry manager is an odd way of saying luck favours the good.

But, is Karthik Swaminathan a good person? He hurls offences at his friend’s new girlfriend, whom he has just met. He breaks the head of the groom with a flower vase at his reception. He pushes away his pregnant wife which leads to miscarriage. However, he manages to make up for everything and tries to tell his wife that he is a good person. But, this is Selvaraghavan’s take on the Byronic hero.

As Karthik, Dhanush puts up a stunning performance, as a follow-up to his National Award-winning role of K.P. Karuppu in Vetrimaaran’s Aadukalam. His character has a dream to fulfil and that alone will sympathize with moviegoers. A passion to be a wildlife photographer, Karthik tries to impress Mathesh Krishnaswami, who according to him is the god of Wildlife photographers. But, Mathesh ridicules Karthik for his beggar-like appearance.

His friends are no good either. Sundar sees Karthik’s photography trip as an opportunity to open up to his girlfriend, Yamini. Shankar tries to woo Karthik’s wife asking her to leave him. There’s the central father figure, who plays Sundar’s dad. But, he is reduced to a handful of scenes and is more of a background prop and not a character.

Having stolen Karthik’s photo, for which he receives international recognition, Mathesh competes with Karthik several years later with the same photo at an international awards fest. Isn’t Photography Award of The Year held for a new photo every year?

There is also Yamini, played by Richa Gangopadhyay in her Tamil debut. Her portrayal of an iron lady is very much present in the first 90 minutes. But, somehow after marriage, she loses it and becomes a defeated wife who tries least to bring her husband in her control. The scene where she breaks down angrily at Dhanush was supposed to be her main scene. While Richa does a satisfactory job at it, we do feel that it’s Selvaraghavan acting it out for her. There’s that serious frown on her face which fails to leave her.

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Review: Mappillai

L-R: Manisha Koirala, Dhanush and Hansika Motwani in Mappillai.

No Mercy!

Mappillai

Rating: ZERO

If you thought that the merciless antagonist always begged for mercy in the last scene of any film, you’ll be surprised to find out that Mappillai’s prime antagonist, Manisha Koirala doesn’t do so. The film just ends with Dhanush spitting another punch dialogue at his nemesis. That’s all the film has – tactless punch dialogues. Rather than make hay in sunlight, writer-director Suraj makes hay in darkness and no wonder the result is a mixed bag full of morosely sickening jokes and ardent heroism. In one scene, a chair just skates down a long hall and stops at the feet of Manisha Koirala. But, stay put, that seat isn’t for her. That’s for her Mappillai. And if you thought Padikkadhavan was a total mess, Mappillai is humongous.

For a remake, one could have just reworked the 1980s film. But, the so-called commercial cocktail that Suraj offers is horribly his creation. Hence, you can see where he stands with something he thought of his own, rather than rip-off some Hollywood flick. Mappillai also could have been a 140-minute easy-going fare, but Suraj brings in his own histrionics and a flashback that could have been trimmed to perfection, and you’re left to watch a 170-minute Mappillai. Vivek as the comedian provides some laughs, but most of his jokes leave you twitching. Vivek has a distinct style of his own that he forgoes in Mappillai and even the earlier Padikkadhavan.

Hansika Motwani (19) finally sees a release and this is going to be a wild summer for her as she has two more films releasing this year. But, what is the point on expecting a heroine to perform in a film which was made for its hero? Suraj stated that without Dhanush, there would be no Mappillai. And without Mappillai, we could have lived a peaceful life. But, Mappillai throngs painfully on your mind and you’re often reminded of the horror it offered. Manisha Koirala is forced to speak long dialogues as the camera pans from one side to the other; a technique Suraj often depends upon.

With the help of cheesy CGI, Suraj also makes an Airbus A380 land in Meenambakkam. Well, it wouldn’t look right if he were to have Manisha Koirala stepping down from a Boeing 747 as she’s portrayed as the state’s richest person. But, when did Meenambakkam airport acquire its own A380 runway? Mappillai also continues the trend of breaking the fourth wall in the climax much like Boss Engira Baskaran. I guess the filmmaker wanted to make sure that we take their screw-ups with a smile and not a groan. Manobala provides some comic relief appearing as a Nithyananda lookalike.

In Mappillai, the protagonist fights baddies and mutters punch dialogues, his ladylove appears dumb and sexy, and his antagonist uses up much time quoting revenge. It’s just another normal day in Tamil Cinema. God save you!

Review: Aadukalam

Taapsee and Dhanush in Vetrimaaran's Aadukalam

Call of the wild

Aadukalam

Rating: ***

Aadukalam, much like Vetrimaaran’s previous Polladhavan, is narrated in In Media Res mode. However, while Polladhavan opened with a gruesome scene of stabbing violence, Aadukalam begins a pacifist with a gang breaking into a shed where the protagonist, according to their eyes, has slit someone’s throat open. Now, we know that this is not true, and that he’s been framed as a murderer. But, we have no other last resort but to buy it that way rather than protesting for the protagonist’s innocence. The narration switches back to six months in a grim-looking Madurai where a few police constables are chasing a few petty thieves. The way each one of them elude the cops is a funny scene. What’s even funnier are the punch dialogues spoken by the protagonist, KP Karuppu. “We go swimming in a tsunami” he proclaims when he’s threatened by members from another gang. What struck me here is, how on earth did the tsunami reach Madurai for someone to comment, or is he just bragging that if a tsunami struck, he would just put on his swimming trunks and go on with the aforementioned action. On the contrary, this is Dhanush’s best performance, similar in style to Pudhupettai, where his punch dialogues however weren’t this stereotyped. Imagine Kokki Kumar muttering the tsunami line while his suitors stab him countless times. How ironic could that be?

Karuppu works in the shades of Pettaikaaran, a veteran in the field of cockfights, a traditional sport in Madurai and its sister towns. Another disciple of Pettaikaaran is Durai, played with gusto by Kishore. Seeing Kishore play a sophomore character is a revelation as the actor deserves a good stand. Taapsee Pannu plays Irene, an Anglo-Indian with pearl white skin. Her face suits the Anglo-Indian girl she plays, but, will that fit her roles in the upcoming films? As Pettaikaaran, Jayabalan becomes the backbone of Aadukalam as the character completely carries the weight of the film.

With a screenplay that runs lines about deceit and betrayal, Vetrimaaran builds up enough suspense with the graphically created cockfights in the first half, while the second half details about the cockfights laid by Pettaikaaran in the minds of Karuppu and Durai. G.V. Prakash Kumar continues his trend of being ‘inspired’ by Hollywood music scores, but comes up with a commendable ‘Yaathe Yaathe’ which sees the bullseye. Taking human emotions as a base for revenge, Aadukalam sees drama become tensile, but, that doesn’t make quite an impression. Nevertheless, Aadukalam is a movie worth a watch.

With respect to a film industry which has seen more duplication than any other, Aadukalam is an original which however carries a century-old message. But, if you want a novel experience, watch it for Dhanush.