Tenaliraman’ marks the return of Vadivelu to the screen after a two-year hiatus. A historical fiction comedy, the actor plays the dual role of the king and of his court jester Tenaliraman. He uses suitable body language and expressions to demarcate the two roles - of a simpleton king, unaware of the real state of his people and of the scheming by his ministers; and of the witty shrewd Tenali who brings the king to his senses. But the humour quotient one expects from a Vadivelu starrer (like in ‘Imsai Arasan....’) is meagre. However, what makes the film watchable despite its glitches is Vadivelu’s screen presence.
The director has crafted an engaging first half, where the ministers are shown striking a deal with the Chinese to market their goods here, and where a dissenting minister is killed. Tenali using his wit and intelligence, impresses the king and replaces the minister. But Tenali has a hidden agenda. There is the love angle where the king’s daughter (Meenakshi) falls for Tenali. Meenakshi oozes charm and glamour and is a promising find. The set design of the colourful street ambiance is recreated impressively (Prabhakaran). The songs and the background score (Imman) complement the narration. Some of Tenali’s situations where he escapes the traps laid for him by the jealous ministers, are familiar ones from Akbar-Birbal stories.
The director is not able to sustain the momentum in the second half. He seems to lose his grip, the screenplay meandering. Also, the film touches on too many serious issues. It could have done with more humour in the situations and dialogue, and portions trimmed, like the scenes where the king on Tenali’s suggestion goes incognito to see how his people were. The whole episode of the king’s encounter with tribals in a forest too is a drag.
In the final analyses, the film may not be as interesting as ‘Imsai Arasan...’, Vadivelu’s first film in the lead. But it is far more engaging than his second ‘heroic’ outing ‘Indiralohathil....’.