Mangalyam Thanthunanena Review: A simple, and occasionally funny, family entertainer
This is a film that doesn't aim too high, and is content with being an homage to those yesteryear family films
The debt-ridden Malayali hero being taught a few lessons on responsibility by a woman (usually his better half) is not exactly a novel idea. Filmmakers like Sathyan Anthikkad and Sreenivasan have already successfully traversed this territory in Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam and Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala, respectively. Roy, the protagonist of Mangalyam Thanthunanena, is no different. If this film were made in the 80s or 90s, Roy would be ideally played by Mohanlal or Sreenivasan.
Though the film doesn't reach the heights of its predecessors, it doesn't do too bad for something made by two newcomers, director Soumya Sadanandan and writer Tony Madathil. Roy is played by Kunchacko Boban with a degree of sincerity and vulnerability that's right for this sort of character. Roy is a decent, family-loving guy with a small character flaw: He doesn't know how to manage his expenses. And when most sons are trying hard not to be like their fathers, Roy slowly finds himself turning into his father. When he finds his pride put to the test by embarrassing challenges, he looks for ways to overcome them. This is what the film is all about.
Roy gets married to Clara (Nimisha Sajayan) whose economic status is seemingly a notch above his. For him (and most Indian men), nothing can be more embarrassing than losing your job immediately after getting married. As expected, he is bombarded with questions from all directions. When is he going back to Dubai? Why is he still here? Until now, he has managed to live a life of luxury; but now he is running around trying to pawn his wife's jewellery to pay back his mounting debts. Since he is unable to come up with a miracle on his own, he turns to his friend Shamsu (Hareesh Kanaran) who, in spite of his poor financial background, does his best to always cheer Roy up.
The cheerful wedding sequence between Roy and Clara that opens the film stands in contrast to the occasional detours taken to rough terrain in the subsequent portions. There is a neat balance between the fun and serious moments. You get the feeling that things are going to turn out all right for everyone, but you can't quite see how it is going to get there, especially when Roy is constantly pushed to the edge. And there is one particularly weak moment where he almost ponders cheating on his wife.
This is a man whose thoughts are all over the place. His soft visage constantly alternates between shame and guilt. He is tormented by the thought of facing his wife after pawning her wedding ring. And being the proud man that he is, he doesn't allow his mother to help him out. There is some weird philosophy at play here. He is okay with asking his wife (and her parents) for money but won't allow his mother to take off her wedding necklace? Also, how come he doesn't sell his car?
In an age of memes and WhatsApp forwards, it is becoming increasingly hard for screenwriters to come up with humour that works. While this film tackles that challenge with an ample amount of fresh, never-been-used jokes, not all jokes work. The mismatched background music plays spoilsport in a couple of scenes too. And the artificiality in some of the performances pushes the film's tone dangerously close to that of the TV serials enjoyed by Roy's mother.
Most of the humour comes courtesy of Hareesh Kanaran and a few supporting characters. They manage to stick out, like that old lady who comes in as the help. And this being a film about married people, you get to see a lot of anti-marriage/anti-wife jokes, but the film doesn't necessarily have anything against marriage or women. It subtly puts across its messages without being preachy.
Mangalyam Thanthunanena is a film that doesn't aim too high. It is content with being a simple, small, old-fashioned, feel-good family entertainer. It does look a bit outdated in a time when 'new gen' films are all the rage, but one must take into account the kind of audience it is meant for. It fulfills the basic criteria required to satisfy a family looking to spend a gentle week at the movies.