Mandharam review: Asif Ali elevates this derivative romantic drama
A slightly fresh, but not path-breaking, take on the rejected loverboy story
Mandharam doesn't have anything new to offer in terms of plot. We have seen this story many times before, done in much better ways by other filmmakers. It has so much in common with another romantic entertainer -- a blockbuster -- that came out three years back. One can call Mandharam a slightly watered-down version of that movie.
Asif Ali portrays the textbook definition of a depressed loverboy who grows his hair and beard and goes on a long journey to forget the fact that two women have rejected his love in his life so far. The entire movie can be summed up in this line because, frankly, there is nothing much else beyond that.
Director: Vijesh Vijay
Cast: Asif Ali, Varsha Bollamma, Anarkali Marakkar, Arjun Ashokan
However, this is not a depressing movie. It's formulaic and derivative, yes, but never depressing. Even the so-called 'depressing' moments are treated with a hint of mockery. Its intentions are good and it's not a bad start for a first-time filmmaker (Vijesh Vijay). It has a straightforward narrative that begins with Rajesh's (Asif Ali) disastrous 'one-way' romance in his school days to his disastrous 'two-way' romance in his college days and finally to that 'no way' point where he -- like most guys who have been rejected very often -- decides to keep women away from his life.
Though Asif's character is no different from a typical twenty-something engineering student whose true passion is something else entirely, the actor's convincing naive-to-mature progression keeps the movie afloat. There is some friendly wisdom offered along the way, but most people, with a Facebook account, are already aware of these things. Take, for example, a line like, "Never put the key to our happiness in someone else's pocket" -- doesn't it sound familiar?
When Rajesh is not busy moaning about his love troubles, he is hanging out with his three friends (played by Arjun Ashokan, Jacob Gregory, and Vineeth Vishwam), who look like they are trying to recreate the one-of-a-kind comic timing of Mukesh, Siddique, Jagadish, and Asokan from In Harihar Nagar (Jacob Gregory's character is basically Appukkuttan Part 2).
Some of the lines are fresh and witty, but one can't say the same for all the jokes. By the way, just like the In Harihar Nagar characters, all four men are trying hard to woo girls. Not even one guy is interested in the concept of arranged marriage?
The two primary female characters (played by Varsha Bollamma and Anarkali Marakkar respectively) do not have any notable qualities -- again, we have seen them before in other movies. These are stock characters. Though I won't spoil the ending, not once did I feel like the two would make Rajesh's ideal partners. The first one is conflicted about her feelings for Rajesh and she doesn't have the courage to go all the way. The second one's feelings seem more like infatuation than 'love'. How are we supposed to take either of them seriously?