Mehandi Circus - A tad simple but strikes a chord!
Debutant Raju Saravananan's Mehandi Circus is very much about how caste remains an evil looming large over love and humanity. The film does keep making statements about our society as a whole but at the heart of it Mehandi Circus is a bittersweet love story that is heavy as well as breezy. Set predominantly in the year 1992 this is another film that employs Illaiyaraja's music as a character. But this isn't a lazy ode and is tastefully done through the characterisation of the hero who runs a music shop and plays cupid to those in need. Sean Roldan's delightful score is the soul of Mehandi Circus. It beautifully complements the yesteryear hits of Illaiyaraja.
You can sense the anger of the filmmaker on the evils of casteism and the futility of the concept. But the film prefers to stay away from it in a way that while you have casteist characters,their toxicity and the everlasting damage they do to those around, they occupy only a minimum of screentime. Perhaps that was the intention. They might not be visible all the time but their ill effects are omnipresent.
The film is a visual delight with breezy frames for the most part. None of this comes across as showy and only keeps adding an aura to the romance on screen. The actors are good. Shweta Tripathi (from Masaan) makes a convincing debut in Tamil. Debutant Madhampatty Rangaraj might not be really expressive but he fits the part. Vela Ramamoorthy is very good. He has a few neat philosophical lines in the film and by having him play the priest these lines are in sync with the character and do not come across as bullet point messages. The dialogues in general are good. There are even cheeky references to Rahman and Rajini with respect to the year that the film is set in (1992).
The film mostly remains in focus with hardly any deviations. Few parts are a bit too filmy. For instance, the circus trick involving knives being used as a tool to decide real life scenarios. While the intention might have been to showcase the power of faith in love, it sort of sticks out. The twist involving a seemingly good character is a mixed bag. While it looked contrived, due credit must be given for not making the character a caricature.
An earnest film that wraps in the evils of casteism in a simple and straightforward love story. The bittersweet treatment works!