There is a single shot scene where Subbulakshmi (played by Saranya) goes about doing her daily chores with a stone face while her husband Mangalamurthy (Livingstone) is singing after a drink. This is perhaps one of the best scenes in Tamil cinema to show the drudgery of a housewife (or should I be politically correct and call them homemakers). The stone face turns into a smile at the end when she sees a friend request from her long-lost friend.
This particular scene forms the crux of the movie. Magalir Mattum doesn’t try to harp the woman empowerment message, nor it brandishes all men as misogynists. The lead characters in the film do not seek to break-away from their lives, but they just need a break from their daily routine.
Prabha (played by Jyothika) is a documentary filmmaker and joins with her to-be mother-in-law Gomatha (played by Urvashi). They try to find Gomatha’s long-lost friends Subbulakshmi and Rani Amirthakumari (played by Banupriya). The rest of the story forms how they meet again and complete something that they couldn’t do 29 years back.
Magalir Mattum is enjoyable because of the delectable performances from the leads and supports. Bramma has brought in an ensemble cast, and they deliver their best. Be it the dialogue delivery of Banupriya, micro-expressions of Saranya, timing of Urvashi and fire-brand enthusiasm of Jyothika; you are in for a treat if you love these actors. It was interesting to note that younger versions of these stars (Vandana, Shobana and Nivedita) have done an equally good job – the casting director should be given a special pat on the back. Nasser and Livingstone are apt in their roles, but Pavel Navegeethan as Karthi steals the show. Ghibran’s songs don’t stick to your head, but his background score makes a mark.
Bramma takes excessive effort to establish the character of Prabha. The honour killing episode seemed to be forced into the narrative and does nothing to the main plot. Although Urvashi’s son is an antidote to other male characters in the movie, it would have been wonderful to see Jyothika’s father and Urvashi’s husband who seem to be better men than the others.
The best thing about Magalir Mattum is that it doesn’t try too much. Bramma has taken a simple story, and the infusion of gender equality thoughts are subtle. Prabha puts her idea of equality between the sexes during a conversation – “it’s about the choice – it’s about doing something when the women want to do something”. She reiterates the fact at the end when she and her husband talk to her mother-in-law. Urvashi’s son wants her to be with him in a foreign country, but Prabha counters it by saying “Do whatever you like.”
The underlying soul of the movie is the friendship, and as homemakers, they want some time for themselves. This is reiterated by the fact when a girl laments about her plight during a documentary shoot of Prabha. But at the end, Prabha asks whether she can get her a divorce, but the girl says no. The discussion around the movie is about the feminism the film purports or the lack of it. I think Magalir Mattum answers it correctly – it’s about the choice of women and not an idea of feminism implied by ‘specific’ groups of people.
Magalir Mattum is not anti-men like many other so-called “woman empowerment” movies, Magalir Mattum shows the life as is and expects you to understand the life of a homemaker. If your wife or mother stays at home, ask her when she met her best friends from school or college, there lies your answer.
Magalir Mattum is an enjoyable joyride and in the process gives you a glimpse into the lives of women living around you.
Magalir Mattum Review: A 3/5 for Magalir Mattum – take your parents to the movie.
P.S., Really admired the use of 80s songs in the movie and the 1978 movie Aval Appadithan acts as the McGuffin in the movie.