This review is dedicated to that family guy who was staring at me for laughing at some jokes. I still don’t know why he gave those stares.
After Kutrame Thandanai, Manikandan has moved in to his favourite territory – a dark comedy with a social message. Surprisingly, I didn’t know why he overtly displayed the message at the start. Is it because people didn’t get his message in the previous movie or did he fear that it might get lost in the narrative? Andavan Kattalai starts wonderfully with an 80s retro styling title cards. It was probably placed to show that the situation hasn’t changed much with the system.
Gandhi (cheekily named character who is trying to cheat and leave the country) and his friend decide to migrate to the UK in order to solve their financial issues. They use the help of a middle man who makes fake passports and send people as refugees to the UK. It’s a tactic used by Tamilians and claim that they are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees – this is the reason why they have tough immigration checks especially in the UK. Gandhi provides a fake spouse name in order to be able to help the visa. But he gets his visa rejected while Pandi gets through. The rest of the story is the roller coaster ride of Gandhi and how his falsehoods come back to bite him.
Aandavan Kattalai makes you laugh. And the sequences are naturally rib-tickling . Yogi Babu takes over the screen in the first half and his timely quips are brilliant. Manikandan-Anu Saran – Arul Chezhiyan’s dialogues do the essential trick. They are sharp, witty and at the same time thought provoking – “ஆக மொத்ததுல தமிழ் நாட்டுல தமிழ்ல பேசினா பிரச்சனை” (So, it’s a problem to speak Tamil in Tamil Nadu) or the explanation Yogi Babu while justifying his choice of London or casual remarks of two lawyer characters about divorces – it pricks you at the right moment. Vijay Sethupathi cake walks his role while Ritika Singh proves that she is not a one movie wonder. Nevertheless, the movie is all about the supporting characters. If the Sri Lankan Tamil character of Nesan makes you poignant, casual performance of the lawyer duo of George and Vinodhini will amaze you. A koothu-pattarai product, Vinodhini was excellent in Thalaimuraigal but I wish she gets more such opportunities. The casting of supporting characters is impeccable and Manikandan has extracted the best out of them. Seshu (the old man who fakes signatures), Stanley (as the travel agent), Singam Puli (as the broker), Harish (as the investigating officer) are so apt in their roles. Pooja Devariayah’s role along with Nasser is so inconsequential to their calibre. All these brilliant performances push you to ask whether Vijay Sethupathi is needed in the movie. In fact, the only reason is that he brings in the necessary brand name for the movie.
The comedic structure of the movie is also the achilles heel of Andavan Kattalai. Comedy sucks the message in to itself and after a particular of point of time there is a chance that the audience would forget the underlying message. The usual complaint in “movies with message” that it becomes preachy but Andavan Kattalai suffers from the other kind of imbalance. At the same time, I don’t blame the creators because a well balanced message movie like “Idharkuthane Aasai Pattai Balakumara” didn’t do well commercially and critically.
The writers could have discussed more about the underlying identity perplexity that they surreptitiously placed inside the movie. I thought it was the message they wanted to convey in the movie and it was more interesting than the overt message of middle men complications. Each of the main characters is trying to change their identities and also in search of their true identity. The whole movie is about how they realise that their real identities can’t be changed. The best example is the character of Nesan where he tries to hide his identity and at the end. The audience get to see the identity thrown at him by the media.
Andavan Kattalai is a good watch because of the hilarity but it could have balanced the comedy along with the messages it wanted to purport. Surprisingly, Manikandan didn’t compromise on this in his last two ventures.
A 3/5 for Andavan Kattalai – Watch it for the supporting cast and give them the appreciation they deserve. But in my book, this is Manikandan’s weakest movie yet (in all aspects)
P.S. – One of the questions that I encountered from people was that they wanted why the movie has been named so. May be because the writers meant the destiny or may be the only thing a person can’t change is his/her identity – the directors might have thought its God given (am an atheist – my family got me tested)