Kamal Haasan’s ‘Mahanadi’ did not meet with much financial success but it went on to win the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1994.
It is a gut wrenching movie to watch and its success lies in its grim narrative. We can’t bear to watch the trials and tribulations of a simpleton villager who loses it all in chasing the riches. And just when things seem to be looking up finally comes another crushing blow ...
Kamal the story-teller, dominates even his actor avatar – quite a departure from his normal narrative. As is usual wont he makes a substantial contribution in the areas of acting, singing, screenplay and story writing. And he pulls no punches in delineating a gruesome narrative that takes the hero searching the bylanes of Sonagachi in an effort to find his teenaged daughter. And when he finds her the narrative is taut and realistic – in a manner that many of us would not be able to bear. He dins in the message and there are no apologies for being brutal and ‘in-your-face’ about it.
Kamal is no superstar or a hero in the movie. He is a widower who leads a simple life along with his young children and aged mother-in-law (S N Lakshmi) in the boondocks of the countryside. Life is pleasant and contentment is the key. The first mis-step is to cultivate the friendship of a crooked financier (Cochin Haneefa) who lures him to the sordid world of Chit Funds and makes him the fall guy when the money disappears.
Kamal in jail is far from the rebel though he can’t turn a blind eye to the sordid affairs and does protest. He finds a friend and a future father-in-law in Panchapakesan (Poornam Viswanathan) and things seem to brighten as Sukanya appears on the scene and starts to take care of his children. He puts his head down and decides to only focus on finding his lost children. Eventually things seems to be headed in the right direction.
There is a sordid twist in the tale yet again. It is only when he learns that the system is gamed against him that he turns to violence and things come to a murky end. The poignance of the loss is reflected when he loses his right arm. A really brutal scene wherein Kamal chops of his arm to ensure that his nemesis is destroyed. It is back to jail time again but the final end is shown to be positive as he reunites with his family. But it comes as too little and too late as one has already been numbed by the sad narrative thus far and is not in position to appreciate the turn of fortune.
Ilaiyaraaja’s music is tops as usual and the lilting ‘Sri Ranga Ranganathanin …’ song just stays with you. Even Kamal lends his voice to a couple of numbers. In all a great movie – one that many should definitely watch though it is emotional wrencher and not meant for the faint hearted souls.