Actor Vijay Sethupathi is an artist who does not think twice to experiment. One of his experiments was his coming-of-age drama Dharma Durai with director Seenu Ramasamy which received critical acclamations for the sense of reality with which it was made. Even their latest work Maamanithan is made with the same complexion. The movie is about a humble auto driver whose life becomes topsy turvy after he gets scammed, and how it wrecks his family, and how they overcome it. Actor Vijay Sethupathi who was last seen in the action thriller Vikram is back on screens with his family drama Maamanithan. Actress Gayathrie has essayed the female lead part in the movie. So, how has the flick come out? Is it sold enough to extend the winning streak of the actor-director combo, and help maintain the reputation of director Seenu Ramasamy in Tamil cinema? To know that let us get into the movie review.
Maamanithan follows the life of Radha Krishnan (Vijay Sethupathi), a humble auto driver in a small rural town. He leads a happy and content life with his wife Savithri (Gayathrie) and his two children. Despite his financial constraints Radha Krishnan never lets down his integrity. With his hard work he aspires to have a better life than the one he leads now. And that is why he desires to shift his kids, who are studying in a government school to a private school. So that they could have a better standard of education. He approaches Madhavan (Shaji Chen), a real estate broker trying to sell a piece of land to fund the education of his children. In an unfortunate turn of events, he gets conned by him and end up earning the wrath of his people. Unable to face his people and raged about being tricked, he abandons his wife and daughter and sets up on a mission to track down Madhavan.
It takes him to Kerala where he meets Madhavan’s helpless aging mother who could only shed tears learning about the dreadful events. Not willing to return to his hometown, he stays there. He comes across a little girl and decides to take her under his wings. Years pass, and Radha Krishnan gets his calling and abandons the child and lands in Varanasi. He embraces spirituality. When he goes to Ganges to take a holy dip, he accidentally meets Madhavan. He learns that Madhavan is dying of a fatal disease. What will Radha Krishnan choose to do, will he exact revenge on the one who ruined his life or will he forgive him, and what will happen to his family, is what makes the rest of the flick.
Just like Maamanithan, director Seenu Ramasamy’s previous film Dharma Durai with actor Vijay Sethupathi was also based on the lives of humble ordinary human beings. The only difference is, it had a clear vision for itself but Maamanithan does not. Even in Dharma Durai the central character faces an existential crisis in life, but regains its hold gradually. In Maamanithan, when the central character runs into the existential crisis it is almost its nemesis. There does not seem to be a ray of hope for redemption with a character trying to deal with a situation that is beyond its grasp. That propels the character to do stuff that it does not know why it is doing till the point it regains its sense of sanity. On paper it does seem to make for a poignant drama. But Seenu Ramasamy’s writing is not authentic enough to convey what he intends in a gripping way.
Even worse is the fact that Maamanithan ends up being a clueless and pointlessly dramatic drama. The journey of Radha Krishnan – from a happy and content man, to sliding into a tragic helpless condition, to reaching the spiritual state – does not feel convincing but rather convenient. Radha Krishnan ends up building a life in Kerala in no time yet he is not concerned about his family that he dearly cares for. Here Savithri too gets support in life through a friend of Radha Krishnan. Just too simplistic for the complexity it aims to explore. The best thing about Maamanithan is how director Seenu Ramasamy writes his female lead character. Learning that her husband has left them to fend for themselves, Savithri does not go cathartic. Rather shows resolve to look after her children. Maamanithan banks heavily on the performances of its lead artists. If not for them, it would have just been an excruciatingly dramatic melodrama.
Actor Vijay Sethupathi has got under the skin of the character. He makes Radha Krishnan resonate with the audience. Actress Gayathrie is impressive as Savithri. She holds the film together with her performance. Actress K. P. A. C. Lalitha lives up to her purpose. Actor Guru Somasundaram is effective as usual. Actor Shaji Chen is functional. Actor Ganja Karuppu is adequate. Actors Jewel Mary, Anikha, Manasvi Kottachi, and Saravana Sakthi have all chipped in and have played their part well. The rest of the cast has delivered what was asked of them.
On the technical front, music director Ilaiyaraaja and Yuvan Shankar Raja’s tracks are not inspiring. Surprisingly, even the background score of the film is just plain and loud. Cinematographer M Sukumar has done a fine job covering the flick. He has captured the raw emotions of the characters. Editor Sreekar Prasad has complimented the work of his colleague with his sharp trim job.
On the whole, director Seenu Ramasamy’s intent to make a film on the lives of ordinary people is toned-down by wild dramatization of events.