Madhura Raja Review: Mammootty shines in an improved sequel
It's a joy to see the actor really having fun in a character designed to milk his charisma to the max
A sequel to director Vysakh's 2010 hit, Pokkiri Raja, Madhura Raja brings back its main character Raja (Mammootty) -- also known as Pokkiri Raja and Madhura Raja -- and is to Mammootty what Lucifer is to Mohanlal. It feels sort of like the greatest compilation of the best moments in some of Mammootty's earlier films. It works -- and how!
This time Raja has to deal with a different problem in the form of a local liquor baron Nadeshan (Jagapathi Babu, as a typical South Indian movie villain). Nadeshan has something to do with the Vypeen liquor tragedy of 1982 that destroyed hundreds of families. When someone starts investigating, dead bodies fall, and Nadeshan prevails -- until Raja sets foot in the same place, 25 years later.
Cast: Mammootty, Jai, Jagapathi Babu, Salim Kumar
Before Raja makes his grand entry reminiscent of Brad Pitt's Troy (lots of boats!), Raja sends Chinnan (Tamil actor Jai) to handle the situation involving Nadeshan and Raja's relatives (Nedumudi Venu, Vijayaraghavan). Chinnan, a replacement for Prithviraj's character from Pokkiri Raja, happens to be the son of the man who made Raja what he is now.
Apart from the few supporting actors returning from the original -- Salim Kumar, Nedumudi Venu, Vijayaraghavan and Siddique -- there are new ones. Anusree Nair plays the perpetually angry Vasanthi and Mahima Nambiar as her younger sibling Meenakshi. Chinnan's romance with the latter brings to mind Jai's 2008 film Subramaniapuram, and brings forth its own set of complications.
It becomes much easier to appreciate and review a film like Madhura Raja once you know exactly what you're going to get and are not burdened by high expectations. We are already familiar with the template of Pokkiri Raja; it's a template used by many mass entertainers that came before it too. Yes, you can easily guess the direction in which the film is going and how it's all going to end, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. It accomplishes what it is trying to achieve.
Some of Madhura Raja's best moments come when the film gleefully makes references to not just the first but also other films. When Salim Kumar asks why Prithviraj is absent this time, someone says, "He is now directing a film," to which Salim delightedly replies, "Oh my Lucifer!" How can you not smile at this? At one point, Raja mentions the name of a famous lawyer saving him from a complex legal situation. That lawyer happens to be Nandhagopal Marar, Mammootty's character from Narasimham. How can you not cheer at that?
What makes Madhura Raja a huge improvement over the original is the toned-down writing. The usually unhinged Udaykrishna, who also wrote Pokkiri Raja, is much more restrained this time. His humour is mostly lowbrow but unlike in the first film, we don't get lines like, "He can make a woman pregnant just by looking at her." One can't help but admire his ability to come up with fresh content with every new film. Also worth noting is Vysakh's refined filmmaking. Madhura Raja is a couple of notches above Pulimurugan in terms of quality.
It's a joy to see Mammootty really having fun in a character designed to milk his charisma to the max. Raja's English is still funny ("Take jump is zero clever" is his version of "Look before you leap") and he can still rock fight scenes. He is basically Kottayam Kunjachan on acid. Madhura Raja is an out-and-out Mammootty show.