MGR Magan evokes a certain nostalgia – that of watching and listening to Sathyaraj on screen after a long time. There’s that endearing Kovai lilt for one, and just the comfortable familiarity of a star whose prime you’ve had the privilege of witnessing. MGR Magan relies heavily on this crutch to propel the film which otherwise stars Sasikumar in yet another rural setup – a village in interior Tamil Nadu, green fields, Bajaj M80s, loud folk, louder lungis, the works. Sathyaraj, the patriarch and village healer, and also MG Ramasamy in the film, has a fallout with his son – Sasikumar as Anbalippu Ravi.
Sasikumar belongs to a certain class of actors who contentedly languish in a space that they choose for themselves. For Sasikumar, it’s anything and everything to do with the countryside – place him there and he’s happy as a clam, performing his lines, dances and songs with gusto, sometimes exaggeratedly so. In MGR Magan, he’s a wastrel, demanding food and other comforts of his mother, while stoking the rivalry with his father. He meets a woman who’s presumably there to have her father treated by MGR, and an extremely unlikely romance follows.
It’s hard to digest the premise that MGR Magan throws at you. We buy Sathyaraj, because he has accumulated enough and more screen credit, and we buy him with ease. Director Ponram, armed with this indisputable fact, turns the actor into a lead alongside Sasikumar – and so, for every word that Sasikumar utters, there’s a counter or two from Sathyaraj, just to make his presence felt. The dialogues are bland, and sometimes grating, especially when the script-writer casts around for humour. With the powerhouse of comical talent that Sathyaraj is, it seems a monumental waste of effort and time, for no line in MGR Magan makes for worthy utterance. The actor tries to inject as much as grace as he can though, and we persevere thanks to his earnest performance.
Saranya Ponvannan as Sathyaraj’s wife flits in and out of the scenes, pottering about her husband, son and the kitchen. Her deliveries are characterful, but the lines themselves are vapid, and she resorts to histrionics to camouflage the dull writing. Samuthirakani, who plays Saranya’s brother, vehemently clings to the vestiges of his prime, trying to induct more youthful fun into the proceedings. His brother-in-law act in Kaala was successful in large part due to some clever screen-writing. Here, Samuthirakani and the instances he appears in are downright embarrassing and quite unnatural – come to think of it, you don’t really know why he’s part of the cast. He isn’t a plot-driver, and doesn’t provide the relief that the director had probably envisaged.
But Samuthirakani isn’t the only oddity in the landscape. An absurd theatrical quality pervades the entire film and the characters that populate it. Anbalippu Ravi – the name could have made for an interesting backstory, but there’s nary a squeak about it – tries to make amends with his father. But MGR doesn’t relent. A situation then presents itself in the form of a common threat that both father and son need to vanquish in order to protect what is theirs. It’s a premise that could have made for decent drama. But for all the emotion and family ties that MGR Magan tries to showcase, the film doesn’t quite have a heart.
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