'Marakkuma Nenjam' movie review: A back-to-school tale that is bland and full of cliches

A little benefit of the doubt should usually be given to feel-good films that want to prioritise emotion over rhyme or reason.
'Marakkuma Nenjam' movie review: A back-to-school tale that is bland and full of cliches

CHENNAI : School and the nostalgia around it is something all of us cherish. But the recent exploitation of this sentiment on the silver screen makes me wonder, “How many disappointing ‘school films’ are too many?” This question kept ringing in my mind within 15 minutes of Marakkuma Nenjam. By then, the protagonists Karthik (Rakshan) and Salim (Dheena) were packing their bags for a high school reunion, except that, this reunion is forced on them. A competing school books a case against the protagonists’ school, for fixing their batch’s 12th-grade public exams, which happened a decade ago, which forces these students to return to their school, to attend a three-month crash course and re-write their boards. Mind you, these characters are all placed in top companies and are well into their late 20s. 

A little benefit of the doubt should usually be given to feel-good films that want to prioritise emotion over rhyme or reason. But what if the logical flaws are overbearing and jarring? Working individuals, who have also completed their college degrees, are forced to re-write their board exams, or they’ll be fired. Surprised? There’s more... The batch 2008 is the only batch accused of this cheating, and there are only 30 students, that too, all of the science stream! Here comes the cherry on the top – this reunion becomes all the more special because Karthik gets to meet his long-lost love Priyadarshini (Malena), whom he couldn’t find on social media or anywhere else, even in 2018. And the list goes on. 

While I was counting the blatant loopholes, the film further pulled itself down with its underwhelming world-building. Marakkuma Nenjam does not try to go beyond the usual tropes of school life, making even the sentiments insipid. The cliches are abundant in the film, such as, backbenchers being the naughtiest, boys making a list of the new female students in class and picking their girl, the protagonist suffering to convey his feelings to his love interest, and again, the list goes on... 

Unlike in Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, or ‘96, Marakkuma Nenjam does not offer us any reason to connect with the primary characters. The romance angle is not explored entirely and is more of a compilation of awkward glances and conversations, and hence Karthik’s 10-year yearning is not justified. Additionally, the film’s flashback portions focus more on ‘Nikkal Kundhal’, ‘90s chocolates (in 2008), and other such done-to-death nostalgia ideas, that there’s hardly any story or emotion. So when Karthik opens an old suitcase to remind his classmates of their memorable times together and orates a monologue, you hardly empathise with him.  

The screenplay is also all over the place. At a point in the second half, when we think that the film is coming to a predictable but logical ending, the makers place a comma and continue the story. In fact, the film has three climaxes, one even involving a pregnant woman’s childbirth, which adds no value to the story. The film’s editing pattern is also rather testing.

The only possible saving grace in this film is Dheena, who essays the character Salim. He essentially plays an extension of his real self onscreen, cracking one one-liner after another, which comes as a breath of fresh air when the screenplay fails to offer a meaningful narrative. Take the scene where Karthik says to his friend Sharanya, “Nee solradhula Priya ku ena odane pudikanum,” asking her to be his wing woman to woo Priya. Dheena as Salim instantly says, “Odane pudikanum na nee accused ah dhaan irukanum.” These lines crack you up in intervals but are effective distractions. 

However, by the end of the film, the primal question I had popped up again, “How many disappointing ‘school films’ are too many?” Yes, school life is one-of-a-kind and in retrospect, we’re all wistful. But when these films keep going back to age-old tropes and predictable plotlines, we can’t help but wonder, “Haven’t these ‘high school filmmakers’ learned their lessons yet?” 

Marakkuma Nenjam

Director: Raako Yoagandran 

Cast: Rakshan, Malena, Dheena, Rahul, Swetha Venugopal, Melvin Dennies, Munishkanth

Review : 1.5/5

Related Stories

No stories found.
The New Indian Express