There are all sorts of love stories which float around us, some genuine and some not so genuine. There are some relationships which probably confuse you, making you wonder what exactly is wrong with people. Needless to say you are too good to be commenting on other people’s choices in life openly, preferring instead to talk it over in your head. Even if you want to share your opinion with friends there is always the risk of being asked by someone as to whether you are questioning someone’s choice purely out of jealousy and so on. Hence it’s normal to just keep your opinion to yourself, and hope that you don’t really get too distracted by what you feel is an imbalanced relationship; only to actually see exactly the same happening sooner or later. And if ever you wonder what makes you think you are perfect yourself, what gives you the right to pass judgements on others etc., hang on-you are just being normal if you feel or react in a manner like this when faced with such a situation.
Watching Gitanjali Selvaraghavan’s Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam makes me think of all these and I just can’t help myself. Oh! And by the way the film does start with a disclaimer of sorts that “not all love stories can be explained easily”, let me come back to this point later perhaps. Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam is a film which writer-director Selvaraghavan had been trying to make for a long time. The film has been in the news on a few occasions, every time with a fresh lead pair, leading to various changes in terms of the cast and crew and title, eventually turning out to be Gitanjali Selvaraghavan’s debut film as director. Featuring a new pair of Balakrishna Kola and Wamiqa Gabbi in the lead, the film also introduces Amrit and Sridhar as the composer and the DOP respectively. Wamiqa was seen recently in the Telugu film Bhale Manchi Roju while Balakrishna is the son of editor Kola Bhaskar who has turned producer with Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam.
Prabhu (Balakrishna Kola) is a typical introvert working in a call centre and who still can’t really say a word in front of his affluent and influential father (Azhagam Perumal). He is socially awkward, except with his friends and hence most of the marriage proposals don’t work out in his case. Manoja (Wamiqa Gabbi) on the other hand is a successful professional, who is reeling from the after effects of a breakup and not keen to get married, but her parents, especially her mother (Kalyani Natarajan) who is a cancer patient insists that she gets married. Circumstances make Prabhu and Manoja go through an arranged marriage. While Prabhu is happy that his father got him married to a good looking girl, Manoja had agreed for the wedding only to keep her mother happy. Prabhu’s happiness is short-lived as Manoja does not want to get close to him, shattering all his plans of a rosy marital relationship. What happens from thereafter in the lives of Prabhu and Manoja is what the rest of the film is all about.
Sure there are a few well written moments in the film, like when Prabhu and Manoja are out for dinner at an Italian restaurant and there is a sharp contrast between the two that’s clearly seen. Manoja is sophisticated and articulate; she is perfectly fine with her order of food and wine, while Prabhu looks visibly uncomfortable over there and insists on having sambar rice. Yes it sounds a little farfetched but at least it establishes the basic difference between the two of them. Another interesting moment is when we see Prabhu’s father getting angry with him on seeing him drowning his misery in alcohol even as Prabhu allows himself to get lost against the strains of ARR’s ‘Nenje Ezhu’, only to break down later in his father’s lap. But barring some moments like these there is a lot that you do not connect to at all. For instance why would someone like Prabhu who has never ever been lucky with any woman have a Facebook friend dying to go the extra distance with him? And to top it all she agrees to go all the way to Munnar with him on meeting him on the very first instance? This is not just strange but also poor characterization.
Also despite otherwise being a sensible and smart lady why is it that the men who come into the life of Manoja are all focused on sex and nothing else? Also the way she eventually is seen realizing her ‘feelings’ for Prabhu sort of leaves us bewildered. Yes even the smartest of people can do something extremely dumb and silly. But surely that wasn’t what Gitanjali and Selvaragaghavan were trying to convey right?
“End of Spoilers”
Amrit’s compositions work well for the film, though they aren’t as memorable as the songs generally seen in a Selvaraghavan film. One thing good about the film is that its run time is just 125 minutes, considering how the tale eventually turns out to be, I think it’s a good decision by the makers to keep the proceedings rather short. For a change Kola Bhaskar hasn’t handled the editing, handing over the responsibility to Rukesh and Vasanth instead who have done an effective job from their side.
In terms of the supporting cast it is only Azhagam Perumal and Kalyani Natarajan who get some scope and they are quite apt for the characters they portray. Parvathy Nair is wasted in a cameo of sorts; don’t know why she keeps getting offered insignificant characters like these. Generally Selvaraghavan’s heroes are usually portrayed either by a wonderful actor like Dhanush or else have a solid narrative to back them up as in case of 7G Rainbow Colony (Ravi Krishna), making us accept the heroes despite all their flaws. Here Balakrishna Kola portrays Prabhu in such a deadpan fashion, that you feel nothing, virtually nothing for him. Wamiqa Gabbi is a fine find, definitely looks quite promising indeed, wish I could say the same about Balakrishna as well. As for the disclaimer at the start of the film that not all love stories can be explained, well it’s sad to say that the love story is almost non-existent in the film and only appears forced and convenient eventually. All in all Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam is a mixed bag of sorts. Seen as a debut for Gitanjali it’s certainly not bad at all, but as a Selvaraghavan script it’s certainly a let-down.