Mugilan Series Review: A dumb gangster in a dull drama
An unengaging gangster drama that fails due to lack of clarity in writing and underwhelming performances
I admit that Mugilan's trailer gave me Pudhupettai vibes. While the name of the protagonist in the Selvaraghavan film had the prefix, ‘Kokki’, the word applicable to the one here would be ‘unlucky’. It’s a series of unfortunate events in Mugilan's (Karthik Raj) life, which begins with him committing a rather stupid murder, which puts him and his family in soup. If we thought a tale of redemption would follow, what happens here is a further loss of respect, money, and relationships. The pathos—unconvincing as it is—in Mugilan's life makes Onbadhu Roobai Nottu feel like a Disney film.
Cast: Karthik Raj, Ramya Pandian
Director: Sri Ram Ram
Streaming on: ZEE5
Mugilan could have worked as an effective tragedy had this gangster been sufficiently humanised. The protagonist here isn’t of the fighting variety; he’s more like Pandiayan character in Asuran, who prefers to being a parasite over aggression. It’s established quite early that this gangster doesn’t have brains, but he doesn’t have brawn as well. All we see him do in this eight-episode series is a lot of talking and walking. By the time the long-awaited fight sequence arrives, the season finale is upon us. Though I liked how it was choreographed, it felt like little compensation arriving too late.
The cops and crooks are both evil in this world and picking a side is a challenge, not because there are moral conundrums but simply because of the lack of clarity in writing. Every time you think there’s something to like, logical loopholes and inconsistent characterisation put paid to it. For instance, Mugilan confesses to being the 'padikkadhavan' with a tinge of humiliation, though he is actually an accountant-turned-gangster. We get incessant voiceovers, forced cues, to tell us that Maheshwari is the evil mastermind who pushed Mugilan into the life of violence, but then she’s the same woman who goes, "Edhukkunga namakku idhellam? Bayamaa irukkunga." Women hardly have any agency in this world and are just personifications of man's fantasies. Besides the foul-mouthed lady inspector, every woman here is a meek puppet.
The performances are a letdown too. Though Karthik Raj comfortably pulls off the aged portions, he fails to do justice to the character's young and middle-aged portions. Robert Master's Saravanan is perhaps the only actor to make our time worthwhile. While on redemptive aspects, I quite enjoyed how Farook J Basha has captured the landscapes in this Tamil web series that looks to have been granted a sizeable budget. Strangely though, the background score from an able composer like Vishal Chandrasekar is a spectacular failure and often seems entirely disconnected from proceedings.
We are at a time when various groups are organising protests against films for sullying them with wrong or distasteful representation. If gangsters saw Mugilan, we should not be surprised to see them taking to the roads with banners and slogans.