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Upperstall Review


Manmadan Ambu


Tamil, Comedy, Romance, 2010, Color

Cast And Crew

Well known actors Nisha, real name Ambu aka Ambujakshi (Trisha) and Suriya (Suriya) are shooting a song when business tycoon's son Madanagopal (R Madhavan), who is engaged to Ambu, visits her at the shooting spot along with his parents. His parents are not comfortable seeing Ambu at the shooting and leave. Madanagopal, as it is, is too suspicious about Ambu and is convinced that she is having an affair with her co-star Suriya. An argument develops between them while driving back from the shooting, which results in an accident with another car. Ambu who was driving and Madanagopal escape without injuries. But before they could find out the situation of the inhabitants of the other car, crowds gather, excited seeing actress Trisha, police enters and take them away to safety. Three years later, Ambu goes on a holiday to Europe accompanied by her close friend Deepa (Sangeetha) and her two children. The suspicious Madanagopal hires an investigator Major Raja Mannar (Kamal Haasan) to spy on her to find out if she is having an affair in Europe. Manaar has taken up this job of spying, basically to pay for the hospital bills for his close friend, Rajan (Ramesh Aravind), suffering from cancer. After following her for a few days, Major gives a clean chit for Ambu, saying she is not into any affairs and that she is a nice girl. Madanagopal feels relieved, but refuses to pay for Major's friend's hospital bills, arguing there is no case now, as Major has not produced any evidence of Ambu having an affair. Desperately needing the money, this provokes Major to become the evidence...

First and foremost, the scenes where Mannar (Kamal Haasan) speaks over the phone to Mallika (Urvashi), the wife and caretaker of his friend Rajan. who is suffering from cancer, comforting her and assuring her of arranging payment of the hospital bills, are simply outstanding and I would rate these scenes as some of the most brilliant long distance telephone conversations ever filmed in Indian cinema, in terms of acting, content, situation, depth, emotion and even cinematic treatment. Just for these scenes I would recommend this film to all, as a must see film. Also, Urvashi and Kamal Haasan have a long film sharing equation in many films, but in this film, they have both emerged and shown what experience, understanding and maturity can bring to acting. In fact, these scenes are so much so a class apart that they almost make all the other scenes and plot points look a bit pale in comparison.

Ok, now to rest of the film. The first half of the film, the structure and the story of the conflict between Trisha and Madhavan leading up to Madhavan hiring Kamal Hasaan to spy on Trisha on her European holiday and the latter deciding to become the 'man she is seeing' to force Madhavan to pay the hospital bills of his friend, is simply brilliant. The narrative flow, characterisations, pacing, structure, rhythm, the range and gravity of dialogues, the cinematic treatment all work excellently. However, the second half of the film which tries to resolve this situation or rather untie the knots done in the first half is weak in comparison. As Madhavan decides to come to Europe to personally verify the evidence, of Trisha's 'affair', the director and his team suddenly resort to slapstick comedy to resolve the issues, which makes the film rather flippant and silly by the time it ends. I find this also is a typical problem with many Tamil films, over the years, where the issues raised are stupendous and often brilliant but the ways of resolving of it always end up like a pack of card collapsing. I wonder why this is such a recurring pattern. Even here, the film ends far too meekly and leaves one quite dissatisfied after the engaging first half.

The film is inconsistent as is KS Ravikumar's direction. Brilliant sequences are mixed with qualitatively weak ones. The crucial scene in which Trisha reveals her past to Kamal is handled pretty badly, especially so when one compares it to the scenes between Kamal and Urvashi. The time factor between the accident and the Europe trip does not come out at all and you are actually surprised that it was 3 years later. The so called love angle between Kamal and Trisha too is not developed well especially the change in their feelings for each other. Not to mention the abrupt love angle between Sangeetha and Madhavan towards the end. As the film collapses, so does its cinematic treatment. The shot taking in the climax is shoddy, the ideas silly. Even if the comedy angle had been scripted into the film to start with, the film was not appropriately guided towards that, in terms of the narrative flow or the mis-en-scene. Still, one of the high points of the film is when Kamal reveals his past to Trisha, with the entire flashback done literally in rewind mode. This works really well but a member of the audience sitting next to me whispered that an English Music video has already been done in a similar style so...

The casting by and large works really well. Kamal Haasan gets introduced quite late in to the film, but his entry is something which still lifts the film. It does feel good that there is a Kamal Haasan around when these ladies are holidaying in Europe, even if he is a spy! He does look senior and desperately fighting his age but given the great actor he is, he does provide an immense depth to the film. The process of falling in love while spying on a girl is an interesting plot but this looks more convincing from Trisha's perspective rather than Kamal's in this film. Trisha is as beautiful as she always is and it's a pleasure watching her perform on screen but it has has to be said she looks the same and acts the same in film after film. Madhavan has his moments, but his character as a rich businessman's son does not really seep through. He looks more like a co-actor of Trisha suspecting her, rather than someone who is in a business family and has nothing to do with the film profession. Suriya makes an enjoyable guest appearance as himself in the beginning, inadvertantly being the catalyst for the fight between Trisha and Madhavan. Usha Uthup plays the role of the dominating mother of Madhavan, but I felt the possibilities of her presence were under utilized. Ramesh Aravind as Kamal Haasan's friend suffering from cancer makes a remarkable contribution as does Urvashi as his caring wife. Sangeetha as Trisha's friend has managed a responsible and enigmatic performance along with her two kids. The Malayalam Producers, the husband and wife team, the Kurups, add an interesting lighter side to the film. KS Ravikumar has once again made a brief cameo screen presence in the film as the in-film director, which looks rather silly and makes me wonder what are his perspectives and views of film direction in general.

The film has been shot in the RED digital camera, with a new upgrade MX, which gives better results in low light. The cinematographer Manush Nandan makes a neat and effective debut in this film. Editor Shan Mohammed too makes his debut in Tamil films after working in a few Hindi features and has made a very effective contribution, in particular, maintaining the pace and rhythm of the film quite nicely. It is encouraging to see a Tamil film trying out sync sound and thankfully, even the background music is refreshingly low key but when I left the theatre, the song Who is the hero? kept ringing in my mind.

Upperstall review by: RV Ramani

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