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The USP of Maamanithan was that llaiyaraja, Karthik  Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja were going to collaborate in it. Then it got reduced to Ilaiyaraja and Yuvan and that Yuvan was going to produce the film.

The shooting was finished in 37 days but the release was postponed several times over three years. So Maamanithan has been in the making for nearly five years and comes to theatres with a back story and curiosity value. Directed by Seenu Ramasamy, the film features Vijay Sethupathi and Gayathrie in lead roles.

Radhakrishnan lives an earnest but contented life – my place, my people – in Pannaipuram (doesn’t that name sound familiar?) Man meets woman – Radhakrishnan meets Savithri. And it’s love at first sight. Radhakrishnan is looking for a helping hand for himself and his father. Savithri wins over their hearts and becomes part of the family.

Viewers do get the impression that they are watching a good film. And that is a success for the director as well as the cinematographer and the editor

A few years later, Radhakrishnan lives a life of wedded bliss – with his son and daughter. He decides to plunge into real estate because he wants to earn more money. He helps Madhavan sell his land and villagers pitch in with advance money. But Madhavan vanishes with the cash, in Mahanadhi style, and Radhakrishnan leaves the village to escape questions from villagers about their advances. What happens to him and his family forms the story.

Maamanithan offers a different fare from the villainous Vijay Sethupathi of Master and Vikram and the comedy turn in Kaathu Vakkula. In this, he plays the man next door.

More than Vijay Sethupathi who probably looks the part of a father of two grown up children, Gayathrie shines as the mother of two. Her costume may have been a bit artificial – loose fitting blouse and cotton saree. But her acting makes up for it with its naturalness.

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Guru Somasundaram who plays a Muslim and dons a lungi captures our heart. Inside a jewellery he evokes the southern Tamil Nadu milieu with aplomb with just one word.

Tea shop owner Jewel Mary, her daughter played by Yennai Arindhal Anika, Shravana Sakthi, Petta Manikandan, realtor Shaji, house owner Murthy and Ganja Karuppu who plays Gayathrie’s father all push up the natural quotient.

There are some glitches in the dialogue that could have been attended to during dubbing. Guru Somasundaram is called vaappa, bhai and mama – variously – for instance.

The film skirts showing police action that is inevitable since a crime has been committed. The director probably wanted to keep the “feel good” mood throughout the movie and any harsh scenes or dialogue would mar that.

But beyond these, however, viewers do get the impression that they are watching a good film. And that is a success for the director as well as the cinematographer and the editor.

The big story is of course the Raja element – two Rajas actually. It’s not clear who did the tunes and who came up with the orchestration. Thattiputtaa and Ee Rasa make a ripple, not a wave. But the trademark strong bgm is there in Maamanithan. That’s the Maharaja touch of Ilaiyaraja.

One wishes viewers celebrate the film, so Tamil cinema gets to make more such films.

Seenu Ramasamy had said during the Maamanithan press meet that he was completely kept out of music composition by the Raja family in a movie produced by the son. If that were so, it was a humiliation meted out on the director. But the Ilaiyaraja magic is not missing on the screen. Nowhere do we feel a jarring note.

In a sense, Maamanithan is a return to the Raja of 1990s when extraordinary music would just flow out with utmost ease and simplicity from the baton of the maestro. The Raja effect has helped Seenu Ramaswamy deliver on the vision of making a simple film.

At a time when ordinary life in our country has moved to one of big challenges and bigger problems, Maamanithan has shown how a simple lifestyle is still far more fulfilling. How much ever we desire the goodies of 21st century such as fancy mobiles and computers, we should never take the short cut in earning money, according to the director. The film says many fathers willingly become villains for the sake of their families.

The screenplay shines when Vijay Sethupathi leaves Kerala because Shaji who plays Madhavan did not come for his mother’s funeral. Vijay Sethupathi had come to Kerala in the hope that Madhavan would one day come to see his mother and he would get a chance to redeem his reputation by squaring away with Madhavan. But that never happens. Vijay Sethupathi keeps visiting Varanasi and the apparent reason is that he, like most regular folk, thinks Kasi will help him absolve his sons and keep his children safe.

Maamanithan celebrates simple life and tells a simple story in a simple way. One wishes people celebrate the film, too, so Tamil cinema gets to make more such films.


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