Manmadha Leelai Review
In a way, Manmadha Leelai is everything you expect from a Venkat Prabhu movie. The director never likes to repeat himself and if you think of it, apart from the sequel to Chennai 28, each of his movies are different from each other. There is his obvious trademark fun quotient that is the DNA of his films but that apart, he has been consistently juggling genres. With Manmadha Leelai, he goes a step further and has juggled genres within a film.
The first half of Manmadha Leelai is mostly what the trailers and promos promised. The film keeps shifting between two timelines, ten years apart, and the focus is on two particular sexual escapades involving the protagonist Sathya (Ashok Selvan). The entire first half plays out like an extended foreplay and with just a handful of characters set indoors, Venkat Prabhu manages to keep things interesting. I had reservations about how Poorni (Samkyuktha Hegde) was acting childish and how Leela (Riya Suman) was playing out like a typical male fantasy on screen but the revelations in the second half does put things into perspective. All the foreplay and titillation climaxes into something unexpected.
*** Spoilers Ahead *** Manmadha Leelai isn’t an adult comedy or to be more precise isn’t a sex comedy. Venkat Prabhu kept saying how it isn’t possible to make an American Pie kind of a film in Tamil Cinema and that he has kept things palatable to the general mainstream audience. So, while we would expect him to reduce the explicitness and deliver a diluted version of American Pie, he decides to pull the rug from under the feet and keeps piling up the twists in the second half and we get a completely different film from what we anticipated. Not all of these twists come across as organic but given how the film is marketed as a quickie and with only a handful of characters on display, the implausibility of some of the revelations don’t hurt much.
Vinayak Mahadev in Mankatha was forty years old. Once the film was done, I kept thinking that maybe Sathya in Manmadha Leelai was what Vinayak Mahadev would have been in his twenties and thirties. There is often this debate about representation vs glorification and I am wondering if Manmadha Leelai was veering towards the latter when the film draws to a close. Even in Mankatha, most of the major characters at the receiving end of Vinayak’s cunningness were people with questionable integrity. But that is not the case here. Of course, the protagonist here is an amoral character and this is his story. But I am unsure if the film stayed clear from glorifying him.
Premji’s score deserves a mention and he keeps amplifying the tension superbly while also keeping the fun quotient intact. Ashok Selvan is convincing and the acting all around is pretty neat.
Venkat Prabhu’s quickie does deliver some quick fun and does keep hitting the right spots at regular intervals. But the implausibility of some events and the whole representation vs glorification question left me with mixed feelings.