While watching debut director Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Maanagaram in theatre, there was a kid sitting behind me accompanied by his parents. After a while from the movie’s start, the kid pointed Sri and asked his mom, “Is he the hero of the movie?” The mom replied, “Yes”. Here, it might be the noble character sketch of Sri that would have prompted the kid to ask so. After a while, on watching Sundeep Kishan, the kiddo repeated the question. His mom reiterated her answer that she had told him before. This time, it might be the heroic personality of the role played by Sundeep that would have made the kid to ask so. The kid’s act of questioning continued with every single prominent character of the movie. The kid did not even spare quizzing about Munishkanth Ramdoss. It might be the comical enactment of the actor, or might be because Munishkanth has been tickling the audience’s funny bones by his amusing act, which would have captivated the kid. The ultimate query, which the kiddo posed towards his mom was, “Eventually, who will save the kidnapped kid?” citing a boy in the movie. Such is the impact of a simple and a gripping thriller flick. In a nutshell, if not the engaging factor, the kid would have not been so involved with the movie’s screenplay. In fact, it is this same factor that firmly held the attention of even the grown-ups among the audience out there in the cinema, throughout the movie.
When it comes to classifying the genre of the movie, in no way, we could categorize it to be either a dark action thriller or a black comedy. We either smile or laugh when the goings-on in the narration intend to make us do and we feel glued to our seats with anticipation to know “What next?” when we are served with some tense moments. Here, we don’t lodge a complaint on the screenplay as being inconsistent in the way it handles the movie’s crux. Such is the manner in which both the genres have been intertwined.
Also, we get enlivened by a lot of lighter moments that come along the way of the movie. For instance, the character played by Sri that is in Chennai and is new to the city’s “atrocities” gets his belongings (including money) ripped by few miscreants. Following which, he approaches a road-side tea shop and pleads for some money from the shop owner. The shop owner stares at Sri with a disdain. In parallel, the song, ‘Vanakkam Vaazhavaikkum Chennai’ from the movie, ‘Marina’ gets played in an FM in the shop. In another scene, Sri’s character has the address of his friend’s residence in Chennai but he doesn’t know how to get to it. Post-midnight, he bounds a cab from his office. As far as the road routes in Chennai are concerned, the cab driver (played by Charlie) is as well in no way more or less knowledgeable than Sri is. With both searching for a while with no breakthrough in their attempts, the song, ‘Madras’ from the movie, ‘Madras’ gets played in an FM in the car. On hearing the lines, “Enga ooru Madrasu… athukku naanga thaanda addressu”, Sri frustratingly asks Charlie to switch off the FM (Conversations between Sri and Charlie in this sequence take a soft aim at the harsh realities of our current day society). Amidst serious sequence of events, when we are proffered with moments like these, all we render is a genuine smile or a laugh. Such moments have been carefully interspersed in the course of the movie. They don’t weaken either the unidirectional screenplay or the seriousness which the characters involved hold.
If not the inclusion of the character of Regina Cassandra, if not a not-so-distracting love track involving her and Sundeep in the screenplay proceedings, if not an appealing portrayal from Regina then Maanagaram could have been an Aangal Mattum venture as far as the acting front is concerned. At one point of time in the movie, I was very much hoping for the character of ‘Temple Monkeys’ fame Shah Ra to not turn good and avoid the cliché of letting the kidnapped kid escape. I felt very much satisfied after watching the movie as many such clichés have strictly been ignored. The manner in which the director has deftly twined together various tracks by placing scenes that lie outside the radar of the typical guesses of the general audience is something which makes the film standout. As far as the camera works of Selva Kumar SK, scissor works of Philomin Raj and, mostly pulsating with occasional soothing scores of Javed Riaz are concerned, they could well be termed as the populist versions of their counterparts’ in director Mysskin’s flicks. With all said and done, if you are the one who is crazy about dark action thrillers, loves to relish dark humours, and feels satisfied watching a movie with a gripping screenplay involving minimal characters and amusing moments then Maanagaram could well be the ideal flick.