What would your expectation be from a film whose writer-director is unknown, whose hero is just 2 films old and his claim to fame is his family lineage, whose supporting cast is again comprised largely of unknown names, whose technical crew comprises of some well known people but not formidable enough to bring in the crowd purely by themselves? Well in all probability the answer to this would be zero or minimal expectation only and that’s what happened in my case as well with the Tamil film Mouna Guru, that’s just been released last friday ( 16th December ).

Writer-director Shanta Kumar has chosen to take the road less travelled with Mouna Guru. And this is a fact that’s been emphasized in every frame and visual of the film. Arulnidhi the son of the producer M.K.Tamizharasu (and grandson of the former Chief Minister and DMK supremo M.Karunanidhi) plays the protagonist Karunakaran here. Arulnidhi, who has earlier been seen in films like Vamsam and Uthayan which were quite different from each other makes a rather interesting move with this film. Karunakaran is a college student in Madurai staying with his mother and true to the title of the film, is a man with few words.

He conveys a lot through his actions rather than words. Essentially a loner, Karunakaran prefers to stick to his studies and only emerges out of his shell when he really get’s disturbed by some proceedings in front of him. Due to his rather brash nature he suddenly has to leave the comfort of his college and home town. His brother gets him admission into a college in Chennai where he stays in the hostel. The only person who seems to genuinely care for Karunakaran seems to be Aarthi ( Iniya ), the sister of his brother’s wife and a medical college student.

Against this backdrop there is another development that happens somewhere along the same time. A group of 4 policemen A.C.P Marimuthu ( John Vijay ), Inspector Rajendran ( Madhu ), Sub-Inspector ( Balakrishnan ) and constable Perumalsamy ( Krishnamurthy ) come across a car accident on a highway. When they discover a huge stash of cash lying in the car, the four of them kill the half dead car occupant and flee from the location with all the cash. So how does this connect to Karunakaran and rest of the plot? Where does the story head on from here? Shanta Kumar’s narration brilliantly draws a connect between the segments and the characters in a neat, intricate little web that keeps the audience hooked all through the movie.

What is amazing is that almost all the characters are well written and the actors chosen for portraying the same more than do justice to them. There is so much of detailing that’s gone in that you don’t need to ask yourself what some character is doing in the movie.

Right from the way the movie begins i.e with Karunakaran and a couple of others being taken as hostages in an a vehicle by some strangers to the way the base is created in Madurai and the way the drama unfolds later in Chennai, everything is wonderfully depicted. There seems to be some reason or the other for every character or situation’s presence in the movie, something that’s rarely seen in films these days.

Arulnidhi with Iniya

There seems to be an undercurrent of intrigue and the feeling that something uneasy is around the corner. But then kudos to Shanta Kumar for not bringing in any unnecessary sensationalism of any sort. There are no over the top dialogues, neither from the protagonist nor from anyone else. That the filmmaker has wanted to make the narrative look as natural and life like as possible is visible in every frame of the film. If you take the relationship between Karunakaran and Aarthi it looks extremely believable and there are no unnecessary dream songs shot in foreign locales woven in.Music composer Thaman.S seems to have understood the requirement of the film fairly well.

Arulnidhi seems to have literally lived the character of Karunakaran and he is very much in control in the film. It’s an interesting thought indeed to have the protagonist as an angry young man but not of the unnatural, filmy kind. Like in the initial Madurai portion after Karunakaran smashes the public telephone to recover his coins, he does end up beating the cop who comes to question him. But the actual trashing of the police man is never shown and only just casually explained. Even in the scenes in the jungle when he’s nearly facing his end there’s an uneasy calmness around him and his approach is casual & yet natural. It could have been very easy for Shanta Kumar to turn Arulnidhi into a hardcore action hero with Mouna Guru but the very fact that he’s resisted that urge and that Arulnidhi has also played along with Shanta Kumar’s vision speaks volumes about both of them.

Iniya does not have much to do but in her portions which mainly revolve around the presence of Arulnidhi she does exude some natural charm. All the four cops- John Vijay, Madhu, Balakrishnan and Krishnamurthy are superbly cast and John Vijay in particular continues to surprise us and make us wonder why it took the industry so much time to discover his talent. But if I need to single out one character and performance from the movie then it’s undoubtedly that of Palaniammal, the pregnant and sincere lady cop played to utmost perfection by Uma Riyaz Khan. Not only is she so effective in the role, but even her entire look & styling seems to have been carefully worked out. Very rarely do you see a lady cop and that too of this kind (no comparison with a heroic Vijayshanti or Malashri of course  🙂  ) in Indian cinema.

Even smaller characters like Karunakaran’s college principal, the college student who wants to be the undisputed king and hence dislikes Karunakaran, the mental asylum inmate (Murugadoss, earlier seen as Dhanush’s friend in Aadukalam) all do justice to their presence. For a long time I kept wondering why there wasn’t anything extra-ordinary in the visuals considering the DOP is Mahesh Muthuswami who has proved his mettle earlier in films like Chithiram Pesudhadi, Anjathey, Nandalala, Vamsam etc and then I realized where I was wrong. It is to Mahesh’s credit that the visual’s look so natural- be it in the interior shots like in the climax in an old auditorium or in the outdoor scenes in a jungle- very natural, very subtle and nothing to distract the audience at all.And Tapas Nayak’s sound mixing ensures that there is nothing too loud too in the overall scheme of things.

Raja Muhammed’s editing is appropriate and never once do you feel the slack in the pace of the film. The movie does move you, disturb you at places and also keep you hooked right till the end. At the end it’s a triumph for Tamil Cinema in a year that has gone reasonably well for the industry. Good to see that the year which began on a high note with Aadukalam is ending with a film like Mouna Guru.