Bharathiraja's Meendum Oru Mariyadhai Review: A needless addition to a celebrated filmography
A shockingly under-written, amateurishly-made film by an auteur filmmaker
Reviewing a film made by a legendary director, especially the one the entire industry looks up to, tends to become a balancing act. On the one hand, our expectations are high, and on the other, we tend to be kinder to the film for the sake of the maker. I went into Bharathiraja's Meendum Oru Mariyadhai determined to not fall into either trap. A few minutes in, I realised all my preparation was for naught. The film's flaws and amateur making were so unmistakable that I ended up having a hearty laugh at my needless sincerity. Random screen freezes and visual inserts would be the last thing you would expect to see in a veteran's film. Meendum Oru Mariyadhai is reduced to a media presentation for the most part due to the horrendous editing. I sincerely believe very few would care to overlook these blunders and search if the film actually has anything to offer.
Cast: Bharathiraja, Rasi Nakshathra
Even if we leave aside the technical mess, the story and its characters feel very shallow. The decision to re-christen Old Man (OM) as Meendum Oru Mariyadhai (MOM) is also highly counterproductive as we end up drawing direct comparisons to his classic Mudhal Mariyadhai. The 1985 Sivaji-starrer worked big time because of its cultural setting. Back then, it was revolutionary to see a middle-aged man share a relationship with a young girl. The ambiguity of the lead pair's relationship was quite intriguing. Here, however, the relationship is much less ambiguous. The age gap between the leads makes it clear their bond is that of a grandfather and granddaughter. Also, the film is set in England, an environment that is more welcoming to differences than rural India of the 80s.
Venba (Rasi Nakshatra) is a girl in her late teens suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, because of the sexual abuse she experiences. She finds her guardian angel in Palpandi (Bharathiraja), a septuagenarian on a mission to fulfill his old home mate's last wish. You would ideally expect him to counsel her, get her legal and medical assistance, and help her face her demons. Alas, Palpandi has other ideas. He takes her on a trip across England giving her never-ending lectures about life. After a point, Bharathiraja's Palpandi feels like Samuthirakani's soul trapped inside Major Sundarrajan's body. Every 'life advice' in English is followed by an instant Tamil translation. "Life is beautiful, Vazhkai miga azhaganadhu."
Having grown up watching his films, I couldn't help but admire Bharathiraja's trademark touches like the heroine running around trees in an angel frock, a flock of birds freezing in the midair, the hero's hat and heroines umbrella getting interlocked by the wind. But, these weren't enough for me to feel connected to a film that shows a depressed, suicidal girl as a gleeful, ever-smiling damsel.
All told, this is one addition that the auteur's filmography definitely did not need.