Cast: Manikandan, NSKJ Manogara, Raja, Rafia Jaffer
Rating: 2 stars
Thirty minutes into Vanmurai Paguthi, I wished I had brought a pair of earplugs. There have been films before which have had loud heroes, but in this film, everyone including the hero, his mother, the villain, the villain’s brother and random villagers who disappear after a cursory scene, seem involved in a shouting match. With this film getting screened in only one theatre in the city — not equipped with the greatest acoustic setup — it was quite an assault on the ears.
But if you somehow manage to sit through these portions, you will see why Vanmurai Paguthi is not a bad addition to the Madurai set of films. Muniyasamy (Manikandan) is a village wastrel with a temper problem that causes the village to ostracise him. His mother, Chinnathai (Dindigul Dhanam), blames her drunkard husband for how their son has turned out, but she does precious little to help matters.
All she wants before her death is a wife for her son, and this results in a series of high-pitched battles with those who don’t think her son is good enough. By this time, your sympathies are with the villagers, not with this family. When one of the hero’s acquaintances decides to ‘give’ her niece in marriage to him, Chinnathai enquires if the heroine’s family knows about Muniyasamy. And then things get problematic as regressive practices are followed.
The director clearly is a big believer of problematic lines from old Tamil cinema like ‘Aayiram poi solli oru kalyanam panlaam’, ‘Ponnu padichu enna pogudhu?’ and ‘Kalyanam aana odana thirundhiruvaan’. The girl’s family call off the wedding when they see through the ruse, and this is finally when the film gets interesting as it turns into a revenge drama, as Muniyasamy vows to get the girl, with the girl’s brothers, Sannasi (NSKJ Manohara) and Velu (Raja), standing up for her. You never feel any sympathy for the one-note protagonist, but a very disturbing back story helps somewhat.
Similarly, you get backstories of the girl’s brothers, and this makes you care for them too. This part of the script that’s about the constant chase between the hero and the brothers is full of suspense. The stunt sequences are well shot with the live sound helping convey a certain rawness. As the climax unfolds, even though it is an idea you are teased with, you genuinely do not expect it.
What is most interesting is that when you expect the director to moralise, he manages to lend importance to both good and evil. There is a post-credits scene that does mellow the highpoint created by the climax but it is forgivable in a film with bigger problems. With a better cast, with lowered voices and a more focused screenplay, Vanmurai Paguthi could have been what it teases to be at various points: A study of violence at a domestic and psychological level.