With Maanaadu, Venkat Prabhu imports a largely Western plot device – the time loop – into our mainstream cinema. The director, still self-aware, makes references in his latest film to Hollywood work as groundhog day (the mother of all time loop movies), Happy day of the dead… and in its expected way, also manages to cite Indian references like Vikramaditya-Vedalam– which I admit I had never thought of before as a time loop idea. Truth be told, the movie’s explanation for why Maanaaduthe protagonist of, Abdul Khaaliq (TR Silambarasan), sees that the time loop does not add much; “Because he does!” Is enough of an explanation, I think. And yet, I liked that this film linked the story of Khaaliq’s birth to his identity and why, even to his very purpose. Also, thankfully, the film doesn’t get too carried away with this story and never loses sight of its own goal: to have fun with its premise.

Director: Venkat Prabhu
Actors: Silambarasan, SJ Suryah, Kalyani Priyadarshan

And boy, is he playing around with this time loop idea. Anytime a Tamil movie embraces a seemingly Western idea, I’m concerned that we may manage to take advantage of the benefits inherent in the idea, potentially diluting the entertainment in search of “business compromises.” And even, Maanaadu has two stars – TR Silambarasan and SJ Suryah – and no duets, love stories, hard-hitting dialogue or why, even fight sequences that threaten your suspension of disbelief. Venkat Prabhu rests his faith squarely on the joys that emerge from the idea of ​​the time loop and brings out an ace every time. Each time Khaaliq dies and is reborn, the story explores a new idea. And yet, Venkat Prabhu manages to tie all of these iterations and their events together into an intelligent mystery that must be solved by Khaaliq, one step at a time.

The characters are the same, and yet the cause-and-effect interaction each time creates delicious new situations and associated problems. After a while, Khaaliq’s death himself becomes a dark joke, and it’s fascinating to live a story in which the protagonist, a bona fide star, gets killed over and over again. Khaaliq, a Muslim by birth, is said to have been born in a Hindu temple, and it is intriguing that this Muslim is the victim – or the beneficiary, depending on your perspective – of the Hindu idea of ​​reincarnation. The result is a wonderful subversion of the tropes of commercial cinema. For example, where we’re used to a villain ranting over a hero’s survival, we get one, Dhanushkodi (SJ Suryah), annoyed by the hero’s death. Where a protagonist’s heroism is accentuated by his survival through thick and thin, we get one whose heroism is defined by his will, and why, even his enthusiasm, die. Maybe I would have been interested to learn how he deals with the repetitive pain of killing himself, or maybe just the sheer difficulty of doing it on his own, but I guess it could have resulted in some kind of movie. different.

This film, however – at the center of which is a political assassination – is unwavering in its refusal to delve too deep or dwell too long in existential complexities. He prioritizes pleasure over fate, entertainment over performance, and I’m not talking criticism at all. MaanaaduThe central event of s may have been the political assassination, but its central, effortless exploration involves the two men, Khaaliq and Dhanushkodi. The two are forced to relive the same day over and over again, but where Khaaliq has agency and thrives in rebirth, Dhanushkodi does not, and that drives him mad (SJ Suryah portrays this frustration as pleasantly exaggerated) . Look closely at these people and you will see that while Dhanushkodi’s meanness stems from his rare lack of empathy and conscience, Khaaliq, in comparison, is a commoner. His heroism is not the product of superhuman ability, keen intelligence or enviable physique; he’s a hero just because he won’t stop trying to do good. I liked the simplicity of this character description. Sometimes good is it’s simple.

You can identify these character differences even in Yuvan’s themes, dominated by the influences of the flute. Dhanushkodi’s victories are punctuated by a sinister track, while Khaaliq’s actions are underlined by two tracks (Voice of unity and Maanaadu Theme), both of which erupted with a sense of urgency. And really, this quality of urgency may be at the center of Khaaliq’s quest. This is why as the film progresses, the urgency increases more and more, to the point that in the end, Khaaliq counts every second. From a passive passenger who patiently waits to disembark from a flight, he turns into a maniacal runner who can’t even wait for the plane to stop.

Both actors, STR and Dhanushkodi, sell their characters very well. STR stays away from punchlines and waving fingers (of which we saw vestiges until in his last film, Easwaran), and is content to be the soft-spoken benefactor, Khaaliq. He’s running against the clock, he’s trying to come up with clever plans, but at all times Silambarasan takes on the role of the underdog in this movie because he knows – and so do we – that SJ Suryah’s Dhanushkodi is smarter and more cunning. I liked that even the hand-to-hand fights Khaaliq wins weren’t because he’s a Tamil movie hero with inexplicable fighting ability; he’s just a normal man who learns from hard work and repetition. It’s a low-key statement on how excellence in any space, even in the real world lacking the ability to time travel, can be achieved: hard work and rehearsal.

SJ Suryah is a charismatic presence, as always; he is a man of dualities. He’s dark and menacing, and yet his frustrations translate into a lot of humor. He constantly threatens Khaaliq, but he begs too. He is a murderer who cannot kill; he is an ambitious man imprisoned within the confines of a single day. It’s a nice idea to tie it into Khaaliq’s routine, and that translates into a terrific block of intervals. If I had grouse, the forced explanation of how the fates of these two men intertwine is over. Once again, I might have made my peace without any.

Maybe what I liked the most Maanaadu So, despite all the visceral fun it offers, there’s also plenty of subtext, if you care to watch. You see he notes how the tragedy of the loss only affects when you bring the irreversibility, and for someone like Khaaliq who can hit the restart button anytime, the loss of loved ones, for example, does not exactly cause deep anxiety. Dhanushkodi, observant and intelligent as always, asks: “Seththu seththu pozhaikka vechiruvom nu unakku thimiru la?“It’s a fascinating interaction between these characters.

Khaaliq’s big, emotionally indulgent scene only comes when he’s faced with the possibility of being glued to his present, and again, it’s a great writing decision, but maybe his emotional breakdown would have. could have been more touching, if we had grown up to invest in Khaaliq’s friends. In this movie, however, they (Premgi Amaren, Karunakaran) exist primarily in the outskirts and serve primarily as comedic props. Seetha Lakshmi (Kalyani Priyadarshan) also operates fairly on the periphery, and while it’s admirable that the film isn’t tempted by the possibility of a distracting love affair between Seetha and Khaaliq, we get a brief breath of it in the “Meherezylaa”. Track; fortunately, nothing comes of it. It might be unfair to expect Seetha’s character to have more steel in a film centered around Khaaliq and Dhanushkodi, but we can surely record a small protest against the only notable woman in this film who appears as a bit of a sprite, resulting in a single character asking: “Iva coward?“and another suggesting,”Pasicha biryani saapudu po. ”

That’s not to say that this film lacks social utility. It is admirable that this mainstream artist seeks to normalize Muslim identity and opposes anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudices. For a traditional actor like Silambarasan to play a Muslim protagonist is, in itself, a welcome choice. I liked the way this movie notes that the villain, Dhanushkodi, has trouble remembering Khaaliq’s name, an indication that he probably doesn’t take this man seriously due to his identity. Perhaps this is why Dhanushkodi does not recognize that his life is tied to that of Khaaliq even earlier. Above all, with films that have drummed into the idea of ​​the Muslim man being a killer for years now, it’s a nice twist that in Maanaadu, Abdul Khaaliq is not only a kind and good commoner, but he is someone who will go out of his way to fight versus says assassination.

I will also remember this movie for some charming choices in writing and execution. Every writer likes to think he’s writing a “clever cat-and-mouse game between hero and villain,” but that’s easier said than done. Maanaadu does this however, and it is obviously the result of a lot of writing work. A tumultuous scene that depicts this has Khaaliq, Dhanushkodi and Paranthaaman (YG Mahendran) in a three-way screaming battle. Another scene, representative of the sophisticated treatment of the film, takes place in the second part. This is when Khaaliq is in the air with his neck pointed at a sharp nail on the ground, so he can retreat. This shot is crossed with a shot comparable to the slow motion of Dhanushkodi looking at a bullet. You’d expect to see Khaaliq’s fate, but instead there’s a nice choice of filming when you’re headed straight for Dhanushkodi’s response. It’s impossible not to laugh out loud.

It’s a worthy comeback to form for TR Silambarasan, who, as I said, is a bona fide star, having endured hard years. My grouse with the star system has a lot to do with its often detrimental effect on “good cinema” and the way it seems to inhibit creative freedom by forcing selfish demands that stifle experimentation. However, if stars collaborating on a project end up in mainstream cinema like Maanaadu– punctuated with smart writing, pleasant humor, progressive politics – there might just be a star system that I could potentially make peace with.

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