Cast: Tamannaah Bhatia, Munishkanth, Sathyan, Trichy Saravanakumar, Kaali Venkat, Yogi Babu, Prem Kumar, Baby Monica, Mime Gopi, Myna Nandhini, Pei Krishnan.
Director: Rohin Venkatesan
Music Director: Ghibran
Grotesque characters, jumpscares, anxiety, and fear are what we mostly witness in Tamil horror in general. But here comes a horror movie that does not fall under any of these categories, and only attempts and succeeds in making one laugh and empathise with its characters. The title Petromax is of course a reference to the famous dialogue of veteran comedian Goundamani: “Petromax light’e thaan venuma?” (Do you want only the petromax light?) from the 1984 film Vaidehi Kathirunthal. It does not have any major connection with the plot except for having a general connection to darkness. It might also be apt because the spirits are seen to always have a burning flame inside them. Petromax is the official remake of the Telugu film Anando Brahma directed by Mahi V Raghav.
A Malaysian businessman Saravanan (Prem Kumar) decides to sell his house in Manimangalam, Chennai owing to the death of his parents who lived there before. The house, not fit for sale because of the buzz that it is haunted, is inhabited by four people Senthil, Nandha, Kaali, and Thangam (Munishkanth, Sathyan, TSK, and Kaali Venkat) who agree to debunk the rumour. Their experiences and findings in the house form the rest of the story.
Unlike other Tamil horror films, the screenplay here takes us straight to the plot in under first ten minutes and grabs our attention. You first assume that the characters aren’t performing too well but later come to understand why each character does so. The introduction was well-scripted and the movie begins with the spirits’ perspective. The film progresses smoothly and the humour works most of the time. There’s satire here and there used as commentary on society. Though I do wish filmmakers experiment with new spaces instead of holding on to these same dilapidated bungalows. We’ve seen enough of them in horror films.
Casting is also good in Petromax. TSK unleashes his mimicry skills (in particular in the scene with Kalakalappu fame Pei Krishnan) and excels in it effortlessly. His portrayal of a famous godman hit the bullseye. Sathyan who has a hearing impairment and suffers from Nyctalopia (night-blindness) manages his role well and is complemented by Munishkanth who plays someone with a personality disorder.
Though the movie was touted as being headlined by Tamannaah (Meera in the film), she has the least screen presence. Despite this, she performs well. Yogi Babu who makes a special appearance for ten minutes manages to garner some laughs along with Myna Nandhini. He stands out from the others during his portion. Kamala essayed by dubbing artist Sreeja Ravi exuded the right amount of emotions without overplaying it.
Tamannaah looks beautiful in every frame composed by cinematographer Dani Raymond. The credit also goes to her stylist Nishka Lulla and her choice of outfits. The film has only one melody ‘Malarudhu Pudhu Naale’ by Ghibran which manages to linger only for a while. The background score is also commonplace.
Overall I found Petromax to be entertaining because of the performances.
The Petromax review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.