I quite love the new wave of cinema. If Karthik Subbaraj, Nalan Kumarasamy and their ilk of filmmakers had made an impression with their mid-budget films a few years ago – thrillers full of lovely middle-class suburbs and uncensored rusticity that film festivals adore – a slew of debutant directors are now emerging with a different genre of thrillers. Adhe Kangal and Dhruvangal Pathinaaru both dealt with fantastical crime, and they succeeded at it. They were all about sharp cuts, pacy editing – rapidly changing frames within seconds – surprises that you actually come to expect, and new faces. A whole lot of them. It’s probably the only grouse that I have, and still do. These directors are all for wild experiments though. Despite the onslaught of new faces, despite the rapid frames… the movies engage, with none of the tropes of regular cinema. Regular, because, these releases can become commercially successful too – the theatre I watch Maanagaram in is small, with the telltale debutant-director-late-afternoon-slot, while Si-3 – only a month ago – had a dream opening with several shows, all for Suriya’s machismo, and some sharp focus on his reverse handlebar moustache.
Though if I were a theatre, I’d be cautious, too.
Maanagaram is well within the league of inspired cinema. No songs, no really lovely heroines who become the target of offensive humour, no offensive humour, just a you’d-never-believe-what-just happened tale that has firm targets. Slice-of-life stories all of them, it begins with a young man from a small town getting to know the big bad city. He gets into brawls, gets hit, gets hurt, picks himself up again – and finally, becomes the city himself. The movie opens in a bar. Different tables, different people, different conversations, but somehow, they all come together – like several acts in a well-orchestrated play. It is pure theatre. The scenes move quick, in rapid succession – sometimes chaotic, and sometimes downright opaque, director Lokesh Kanagaraj visibly strains to tie everything together. Sri wants to make his fortune in the city, but can’t gets past its dark underbelly, Sundeep Kishan is a throrough city-bred, unemployed, pining after the love of his life; Charlie is a good-hearted driver employed with a cab service; and then, a bunch of gangsters who engage with just about everyone. The movie is about earning a living, whatever the means. There are snatches from those detestable ‘software firms’ (can’t quite fathom the hate) while the gangsters have a new arrival in their midst: Ramdoss as a bumbling misfit, and the source of much humour.
Maangaram could well be about people, too – of human emotions, just as inscrutable as in real life – random acts of kindness, and finally, an idealistic small town man who is forced to tread the path of moral ambiguity in the city, only to embrace the place as his own.
The best part? I never get to know his name – or the others’.
The Maanagaram 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.