Tamil Reviews

Maanaadu Review: Venkat Prabhu Delivers an Entertaining, Largely Gripping Time-Loop Thriller

Time loop as a fictional concept goes back decades. It has been employed many times in various international films – Silambarasan TR even lists some of them out for us in one of Maanaadu’s meta scenes. However, it is new to Indian cinema. Venkat Prabhu’s Maanaadu was, in fact, initially touted as the country’s first time-loop film. But its long gestation period has made it even lose out on the title of the first Tamil film to explore the concept (to last week’s Jango).


What Maanaadu can lay claim to, though, is a star at its centre. And one with a very loyal fanbase at that. But the real success of Venkat Prabhu’s film lies in not simply being a vehicle for this star. It is a high-concept film in Tamil done right. Far too often our filmmakers take these cool ideas and surround them with so many commercial compromises, their movies inevitably sink under all that weight. Not so here. Venkat Prabhu sticks to the central plot and only provides diversions of the quirky kind that mostly add to the entertainment without detracting from the core thriller. And make no mistake, Maanaadu is just that – an entertaining thriller – not science fiction/fantasy or a supernatural movie.

STR, meanwhile, has little to do. All he needs to do is play an everyman. (The intro scene implying he is a VIP seems to have only been added for an impressive hero entry and a minor plot device – it is never expanded on later). He is just an average Joe. Only, this ordinary guy happens to be a Muslim who ends up saving the day. And that’s pretty huge for Tamil cinema, which has been curiously bereft of heroes from the community. It is also refreshing that STR’s Abdul Khaaliq, despite trying his best to do the right thing and somehow having the power to loop time with his death, is still no superman. He is not particularly brilliant; he only learns by rote. Even the one extended fight sequence that STR gets, Khaaliq wins not by being super strong or especially agile, but simply by learning his opponents’ moves through repetition (incidentally, the staging of this stunt scene is quite delectable).

I could have done without the wink-wink-nudge-nudge self-references to Silambarasan’s personal life and previous films. But as fan service goes, it was fairly mild and not too thickly laid on, so it’s a minor quibble. Another slight complaint is the slow start to the film and the choice to underline every one of the moments that are soon to be repeated ad nauseam with painstaking slo-mo shots. Fortunately, this spoon-feeding ends fairly quickly. Once the stage is set and the time loop begins, things move along briskly and, as the film progresses, Venkat Prabhu trusts his audience more and more, making for entertaining cinema that doesn’t drag its feet.

The plot in a nutshell is this: Khaaliq, who is going about his business, just helping a friend out, suddenly finds himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the chief minister and start a communal riot. He also finds himself stuck in a time loop that resets the day each time he gets killed. To break the loop he needs to stop the assassination and the consequent riot. The why of this is not important. And in fact, the compulsion to explain it is yet another of those niggles I had. I appreciated the attempt to tie this explanation to the communal harmony theme of the film (which feels mostly like lip service – though, to be honest, even that much is to be welcomed given the current atmosphere in the country), but we really could have done without that backstory.

Meanwhile, my biggest concern – that Premgi & co would be annoying distractions – proved to be unfounded. Premji doesn’t get enough screen time to test our patience. Heck, he doesn’t even register enough for us to care when he is killed in one of the loops (Silambarasan’s wailing in this scene is the real distraction, truth be told). The sore thumb in this movie is actually Kalyani Priyadarshan. Her Seethalakshmi’s ‘bubbliness’ is grating and does not fit the tone of Maanaadu at all. In fairness, Venkat Prabhu does try to weave Seetha into the plot, but the actor is just not up to the task and her characterisation doesn’t help either. Luckily, we are not saddled with a romance sub-plot featuring her. And for once, I was really glad for Tamil cinema’s vanishing-heroine-in-third-act syndrome.

The only actor who grabs our attention in Maanaadu is SJ Suryah. He’s an actor born to ham, and ham he does. Aided greatly by Yuvan Shankar Raja’s BGM (which, unsurprisingly, is one of the film’s strengths), Suryah chews every scene he is in, and how! It is hard to take one’s eyes off him and he provides a lot of the amusement in the second half.


The real star of Maanaadu though is Venkat Prabhu. This is his film through and through. It is his writing and his filmmaking that keep us hooked for nearly 150 minutes with nary a wish to check our phones. Khaaliq tries with all his might to make sure the maanaadu (convention) does not happen in the film, but I’m truly glad Maanaadu, the movie, did happen.


This Maanaadu review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.