Raja Mandhiri opens with a reassuring shot of rolling paddy fields, lofty mountains, and a clear blue sky. It leaves the audience in no doubt about the tone and setting of the movie: life in the countryside. The story revolves around two brothers and their misadventures with love. Nothing particularly out of the box, the movie largely relies on the acting caliber of the lead actors to drive it home. Directed by debutant director Usha Krishnan, Kaali Venkat (Surya) plays the older brother, and Kalaiarasan (Karthi) plays the younger.
The 30-something Surya has been looking for a bride for a few years. He also takes care of his father’s soda retail business. Karthi is a happy-go-lucky boy who has completed his 12th grade and is waiting to be admitted into college. Surya falls in love with his neighbour, but due to a family tussle, the relationship falls apart. Meanwhile, Karthi starts college and falls in love with his college friend played by Shaalin Zoya. After an unexpected turn of events and a mismatched marriage arrangement, all their relationships are at risk.
Kaali Venkat has done a remarkable job of capturing the insecurities of a man who is faced with rejection meets it with a spring in his step. His subtle, romantic advances and his uncertain self add more layers to his character. His co-star Kalaiarasan pulls off a convincing performance with ease. Both actors shine in their penultimate scene – an emotional exchange between the brothers. Debutant actor Shaalin Zoya isn’t far behind in bringing her character to life. The romantic scenes between Kalaiarasan and Shaalin Zoya have come out well.Comedian Bala Saravanan has the audience in splits with his situational humour. He plays the role of Kalaiarasan’s college mate. The duo project good camaraderie, and their easy banter is easily one of the high points of the movie.
The movie has made a good attempt to capture the rural essence of the countryside, albeit with a few glitches. The scene in which the neighbours have a huge tiff over dumping garbage, although might seem a bit bizarre to our urban sensibilities, is a realistic portrayal of life in the countryside.
The opening song ‘Bam Bam Bamabaram’ shows us the rapport between the brothers when they were young. An even catchier song was ‘Ethitha Veetu Cauliflower’, (neighbouring house cauliflower) which had us humming long after the movie was over.
Once the initial amusement fades away, the first-half of the movie is slow enough to induce restlessness. The petty-quarrels between the brothers although initially entertaining, do nothing to make their roles memorable. Barring a few noteworthy scenes, the brotherly relationship between the duo is mostly replete with mediocre mockery. The overly dramatic father who repeatedly keeps saying “Paasakara paasanga“(affectionate boys) at the slightest hint of affection from the brothers, fail to amuse the audience the way it was intended. It’s only after the introduction of comedian Bala Saravanan that the film picks up momentum. But even that comic respite is not enough to maintain the pace. The romantic track between Kaali Venkat and his future bride lacks chemistry, and doesn’t quite strike a chord with the audience. With hardly any dialogues exchanged between the pair, the romantic track solely relies on Kaali Venkat’s acting to take it forward.
In short, Raja Mandhiri is yet another countryside romance flick, with nothing new to offer, but a display of good acting skills.