Review of Tamil Movie ‘Mandhira Punnagai’ (Mystic Smile)

‘A man biting a dog is a news-worthy story but not vice versa.’ Turning a story on its head is an oft tried ploy and every film tries to promote itself as being different from the ‘run of the mill’ stuff that usually emerges from our potboiler producing film industry.

The movie helmed by Karu Palaniappan who gave us the magical ‘Parthiban Kanavu’ (Parthiban’s dream) and  the intriguing Sadhurangam (Game of Chess!) raises a lot of expectations. Fifteen minutes into the movie, you do feel that you are in for a treat but the overall movie leaves a lot to be desired.

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Karu Pazhaniappan and Meenakshi in Mandhira Punnagai                                                   Image Courtesy – moviegalleri.net

The bare plot of this ‘rom-com’ runs as follows – Karu plays the protagonist – a genius Architect who is portrayed as God’s gift to his firm, let us just forget that he displays an appalling lack of Emotional Quotient and plain social etiquette. The few initial scenes are entertaining as he does make some thought-provoking observations and seems to come across someone who hates hypocrisy. But then you latch onto the fact that the scenes are being contrived to fit the ‘formula’ in order to grab the attention of the average viewer. Such scenes do not happen like this in real life – nor would anyone with even an acute sense of repartee still be able to respond the way our hero does unfailingly on every occasion concocted for him.

Karu’s boss is shown to mention that he appreciates his talent and professionalism and does not mind him not being a ‘Yes Man’. We can understand that a genius oddball may at times be socially challenged and the seniors may live with a bit of crankiness.But it goes far beyond that since a lot of it is a bit of ‘koyupo’ and ‘thimiru’ combination and the hero is a perfect candidate to be sent to an interpersonal relationship workshop. And such lame justifications are bandied about – apparently our superstar’s plan proposals are so good that they always make the cut in the first presentation with the client.

Oh yes, we have seen these bouts of megalomania for sure and all the other characters seem to have been assembled to be caricatures who hail the crank-pot in so many ‘mass’ movies. And it could have been hilariously humorous if the director had acknowledged the oddities and set them in a larger context. It becomes a bit nonsensical when you realize that the director is ‘dead -serious’ in doing a bit of blind ‘hero-worship’.

Some space is conceded for Santhanam to do a bit of slapstick comedy and lighten the mood. Also space has been given to the heroine (Meenakshi) as well. But the equation is still quixotic and the message is that since the hero cannot romance a girl next door, she is shown to be a super-achiever in a limited context.

And so we have a modern and smart woman who knows her mind and firmly believes in making her own choices in life. But she is shown to put up with a lot of nonsense from Karu as she believes it to be her ordained mission to reform him. Well that play is still realistic in some ways as it exploits the oldest trick in the book – the fascination of a good woman with a heart of Gold for the wrong man who seems to be beyond any hope of redemption.

By now you are about to throw the towel, wherein the writer tries another pop-psychology trick by introducing a track from the hero’s childhood where he was cruelly betrayed and abandoned by his mother and hence developed the underlying complex of not being able to accept genuine love and trust from another woman. It is half-baked and the transitions don’t hold much appeal as by now you are past caring on how this would all end. But you can see it coming as well, there is a quick wrap up and all is well that ends well.

Still there are a few positives – lot of ‘punch’ dialogues that are not ‘over-the-top’ but actually make you think a bit, highfalutin Tamil that will fox most average viewers like me – you still can instinctively appreciate that the writer knows his business here (another problem is that it is delivered in a droning monotone by Karu himself – perhaps using a professional actor would have brought in modulations and tones that would have communicated the message more effectively), an interesting cameo for Thambi Ramaiah who plays it with the right tone except being a bit bombastic in the Society meeting while defending our hero, the lilting classic song ‘Enno Kuraiyo…’.

I guess it is disappointing as the story fails to live up the promise it shows early on. Like the Rodin’s ‘Thinking Man’ image shown in an early visual of the movie, we rue that the content does not quite deliver exactly what we have come to expect from the man who enthralled us in his earlier movies.

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