If you can’t tell by now, I am going on an trip through various Tamil movies from the 90s and early 2000s that were released during my childhood. Next up is Mudhalvan. This film is interesting because it portrays the standard David vs Goliath story and tackles the theme of corruption in politics in India. I will talk about this more later in my review.
First of all, this is a fairly simple story. Unfortunately, it does result in characters that are somewhat 2-dimensional. First off, let’s start with our hero: Arjun as Pughazhendhi. Arjun’s character is the stereotypical good guy hero. He loves his parents, does honest work as a cameraman and is willing to help people. Yes, this appears to be a 2-dimensional character. But this innocence and good guy vibe is very important later in the film. He does grow and change as the movie goes on, so while he appears 2D at first, he definitely becomes more developed towards the end of the film. Unfortunately, our heroine did not fare so well in this film. Manisha Koirala plays Tenmozhi, a village girl who falls in love with Arjun’s character. Unfortunately, that is about all the depth that appears in Manisha’s character. She is just there purely to be a love side story, nothing else. She does not contribute that much to the plot line at all except partially to provide an excuse for the various songs. It really was depressing to see Manisha in this role. Now don’t get me wrong, Manisha did a fantastic job with what she was given. Unfortunately, she was not given enough to work with. There was absolutely no room for her to flex her acting muscle at all. Next up, we have the main antagonist Aranganathan played by Raghuvaran. The archetypal villain, there is not much depth to this character either. While Aranganathan does a splendid job of acting this role, just like Manisha, he does not have much to work with. Overall, this is the most disappointing aspect of this movie.
A. R. Rahman is at the helm of the music for this film. As usual, he delivers a great set of songs. Some of them will definitely be making it into my music collection including Shakalaka Baby and Uppu Karuvadu. That said, I was not a big fan of the other songs. While they are catchy, I do not think are quite up to par with what A. R. Rahman usually produces. That said, it is a much better soundtrack that many of the more recent tamil films. So I will give this a decent rating.
The village scenes are truly beautiful as well as the scenes used in the dance sequences. Overall, shots were clean and well thought out. There was a number of CGI sequences used in this film. While they do not look splendid in terms of today’s standards, they pretty decent for the Kollywood industry at the time. At the same time, nothing really stood out for me. In terms of song and dance sequences, they were well choreographed, the costumes and sets used were nice and colourful. Again, these are typical of the films of the time in my opinion so nothing particularly stood out for me.
This is easily the strongest part of the movie. A good summary of the plot is that a news reporter, played by Arjun, causes the CM of Tamil Nadu, played by Raghuvaran, to mess up an interview. As a result, the CM challenges him to try being a CM for one day just to see how tough it is. Against the CM’s expectations, Arjun’s character manages to do a fantastic job. People are in the streets demanding that he becomes the CM, so the current CM is forced to resign. Arjun’s character is voted into power during a landslide victory. The rest of the film deals with Arjun cleaning up Tamil Nadu and the former CM plotting ways to remove Arjun from power. It is not a complicated plot, there is one main story with a side story of the romance. Unfortunately, the romance feels mostly tacked on and as filler for the first half of the film. The romance is almost forgotten during the latter part of the film and is resolved in a hurried manner in the last few minutes. The not complicated plot works in the film’s favour. Instead of being bogged down by the details of the day-to-day goings of the CM’s job and going into depth on how Arjun comes into power, the film opts for a simple explanation that suffices to move the plot along. The most important part of this plot is when Arjun starts losing everything he holds dear as a CM and eventually how this drives him to put aside the ethics he swore to keep just so he can be rid of Raghuvaran’s character. You see him fighting the urge to become just like the politicians he dislikes. The film also delivers a very strong message to the people of Tamil Nadu and to the politicians themselves. If politicians actually did their job of upholding laws and justice instead of caving in to corruption, think about how much better the state would be. It’s definitely not an easy message to ignore.
Overall Score: 7/10
While the film does have its flaws, the plot alone is enough for me to recommend this film to others.