Cast: Prashanth, Meera Jasmine, Prakash Raj, Mumaith Khan, Vadivelu and Kota Seenivasrao
Released in the early 80s, ‘Malayur Mambattiyan” was one of the biggest hits in Thiagarajan’s career. *He had written, directed, produced and played the title role in it, and the film was remade in various languages with success. The Robin Hood saga now returns to the Tamil screens as ‘Mambattiyan’.
And while Thiagarajan produces and directs this version too, it’s his son Prashanth who reprises the role his father had essayed with such flair. A comparison to his father’s performance is inevitable. And, it’s to Prashanth’s credit that he has risen to the challenge and played the role with panache.
The actor’s body language and voice modulation lend intensity and conviction to the role of the outlaw. His action scenes are a delight to watch.
Remaking a successful film is no easy task, even if it’s the same person who reprises his own earlier version. For, makers while replicating the content, invariably fail to capture the soul of the original. But, Thiagarajan has managed to recapture the essence of his earlier work, even while giving the rustic saga a more contemporary feel.
The screenplay is taut, the director rarely losing his grip on his narration. It’s a racy pace as we follow Mambattiyan’s transformation from a simple youth to an outlaw revered by his people and wanted by the police. There is the vendetta killing which forced Mambattiyan to take to the forests; a persistent cop (Prakashraj apt for the role) determined to hunt him down; the woman in his life whose marriage he had inadvertently thwarted; the local dancer who held a torch for him; and the copycat thief (Riyaz) who cashed in on Mambattiyan’s name.
Meera Jasmine, who gets a substantial role after a long gap, lends a wholesome appeal to her character, Kannatha. Mumaith’s Sornam, the local dancer who holds a torch for Mambattiyan, is well played out.
Vadivelu’s comic antics do not click, as the actor somehow fails to get the laughs. This version is grander and larger in canvas, with more technique and style. The clothes and the fights have all been adapted to suit modern sensibility. Thrilling are the chases and stunts, particularly the one where Mambattiyan escapes from police custody. This time round there are the choppers hovering above, and men sliding down parachutes to track the renegade.
A couple of songs from the earlier version have been remixed, with Thiagarajan rendering the title one. Thaman’s background score and the slick editing (Don Max) enhance the mood. The cool lush locations are breathtaking. Shaji Kumar’s camera has captured the action impressively.
Fast paced and engaging, ‘Mambattiyan’ couldn’t have been remade better.
(Correction: *'Malaiyur Mambattiyan' was directed by Rajashekar and not by Thiagarajan, as mentioned by the reviewer. The error is acknowledged.)