Maamanithan movie review: A surprisingly good movie about what makes a man great

Maamanithan movie review: A surprisingly good movie about what makes a man great

Language: Tamil

Last year, Vijay Sethupathi starred in Laabam where every scene looked like an excuse to cram our heads with information. It was a social science class that I wasn’t interested in. I was afraid a similar fate would fall upon Maamanithan, as well. In the opening scene of this Sethupathi starrer, his character, Radhakrishnan, teaches his children (a son and a daughter) the importance of running. He tells them that running frees them. But his piece of advice comes out of nowhere, and, hence, I didn’t think it would serve any purpose other than depicting the bond between a father and his kids.

However, Radhakrishnan runs sometime later. It’s not the kind of running that tests his stamina, though. He runs away – from his family to find another shelter. Maamanithan is surprisingly honest. It doesn’t beat around the bush and tells a nice story straight from the heart. In the scene where Radhakrishnan talks about running, there are some dialogues about eating fish, as well.

The daughter asks if it’s wrong to kill something in order to eat it, and the father says he doesn’t have an answer to that. He doesn’t come up with anything smart on the spot. But they go home and happily gorge on fish curry anyway. This attitude of his comes in handy towards the end when he’s asked by a young sage if he knows the meaning of Advaitism. It’s a standout scene that deserves applause for the way Sethupathi delivers his line. He says he only knows how to stop hiccups and walks out of the restaurant, leaving his questioner dumbfounded.

Maamanithan movie review: A surprisingly good movie about what makes a man great

There’s no arrogance in his body language. And he doesn’t turn around to punctuate his punch line with a period. Still, it’s comedy gold. Alas, it’s also the only place where I laughed out loud. Now, let’s get back to the beginning. Radhakrishnan is an auto driver who wants his kids to speak English. With the money he makes from driving around, though, he won’t be able to enroll them in a better school. His main dream is to get them educated. And for that, he takes up another job that he’s naturally good at.

Even when Savithri (Gayathrie), his wife, warns him regarding the perils of making a quick buck, he doesn’t listen to her. His intention is linked directly to making his kids reach the top. And education, he truly believes, will get them there. He’s definitely right about that because it’s an antidote. What he doesn’t get right, however, is the manner in which he trusts all and sundry. When he finally lands in trouble, he runs away, as it’s the easiest option that he can put his hands on.

Maamanithan movie review: A surprisingly good movie about what makes a man great

Maamanithan doesn’t wear its coat on the shoulders of a thriller. There are no shocking revelations that tumble out of the closet in the third act, although you’ll get one if you sit through the movie. But that’s not the most interesting aspect here. Writer-director Seenu Ramasamy seems to prod at the sentiments that make us who we are. The title, which translates to a great man, is obviously related to the protagonist’s soul.

We get to understand Radhakrishnan’s greatness as the movie progresses. What is greatness, by the way? Doesn’t it depend on what one does in a given situation? What do we do when push comes to shove? Savithri is also great if you think about it. She raises her kids in the same village where her husband gets badmouthed day in and day out. Doesn’t she sacrifice her sanity in a way? But Ramasamy only gives us glimpses of the insults she faces and not the triumphs she embraces.

Maamanithan would have been a different film if the camera’s gaze had followed Savithri. Both of them suffer, but the filmmaker makes us sympathize mostly with Radhakrishnan’s problems.

Then again, this is a drama that brings together people from different religions. Radhakrishnan’s best friend is a Muslim. And the woman he befriends in Kerala, where he finds a roof over his head, is a Christian. Although there are religious symbols everywhere, differences do not crop up anywhere. Ramasamy wants us to know that people of all faiths can live peacefully. This is a matter that has been dealt with extensively – and hilariously – in the recent Telugu release, Ante Sundaraniki, as well.

In that Telugu movie, the castes and faiths are mentioned and lugged around, whereas, in Maamanithan, they simply become a part of the wallpaper.

The new troubles for Sethupathi and Gayathrie are a far cry from the ones they encountered in Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (2012). In the decade that has passed since then, they have grown as actors individually, and as an on-screen couple that we can all shower our love upon.

Maamanithan is playing in cinemas.

Karthik Keramalu is a writer. His works have been published in The Bombay Review, The Quint, Deccan Herald and Film Companion, among others. 

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White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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