Those who've watched Malaiyur Mambattiyaan, one of the greatest hits of the time, have to concede that the new Mambattiyaan (U), which has Prashanth and Meera Jasmine replicating Thyagarajan and Saritha, is a more engaging version of the 1983 film. For Prashanth, much depends on the fate of Mambattiyaan at this juncture. Understanding this too well, his father Thyagarajan, its helmsman, has worked diligently to make it racy. That the senior believes in slickness even at the cost of logicality was seen in the recent Ponnar Shankar. But in Mambattiyaan, Thyagarajan has developed and executed a screenplay without gaffes, which gallops at commendable speed. Eschewing frills, he holds the viewer's attention throughout. For example, if the opening scenes of Mambattiyaan's parents meeting their end at the hands of the cruel landlord had been protracted, it could have affected the pace. Don Max (editing) is also a contributor here.
Looking every inch a sturdy, sinewy mountain-dweller, the desi avatar of Robin Hood suits Prashanth perfectly. So much so, you begin to believe that this Hercules is used to a rough life on rugged terrains. He could have romanced the likes of Aishwarya Rai, but natural expression of love hasn't been Prashanth's forte. Kannedhirae Thondrinaal with Simran was probably one of those rare films in which he was convincing enough as a lover. But in action, comedy, sadness and sedateness, the actor always makes a mark. Hence the serious role of Mambattiyaan fits him like a glove. Mambattiyaan should be a milestone in Prashanth's career.
An avaricious landlord (Kotta Srinivasa Rao) has a serf and his wife murdered. Their son Mambattiyaan wreaks revenge and kills those who come to the rich man's rescue. Mambattiyaan, his brother and a few others who have suffered at the hands of the landlord seek refuge in the forests near their hometown, Malaiyur. They are now bandits who loot the wealthy and distribute the booty among the poor. But the police force, headed by IG Ranjith (Prakash Raj), is on their trail.
Meera Jasmine, the beauty who has been in hibernation for a while, re-enters the fray in a solid part. As Kannaathal, who is deeply in love with Mambattiyaan, she scores. Prakash Raj can be spontaneous if the director allows him to. Mambattiyaan exemplifies it. Without bravado or big talk, he shows he can be an effective foil to the hero. The film seems to be a second innings for many, including Vadivelu. The comedian doesn't disappoint, though his escapades and their result aren't new to him or us. But it is Mumaith Khan who springs a surprise. Not just item numbers, the Khan girl has been given a character which earns your sympathy! Incidentally, Mumaith's second song sequence is eminently avoidable. The verdant hills, the gushing waters and the rocky slopes that form the abode of Mambattiyaan are a connoisseur's draw — cinematographer Shaji Kumar captures Nature in all its beauty. The minimum props so aptly put together make you curious about the art director. It is Thyagarajan, say the credits! And as the film isn't set in a modern milieu, he has established a plausible old-world feel.
The most popular numbers in the original, composed by Ilaiyaraja, have been used — the rest is Thaman's. RR is appreciable.
A few years ago, when Prashanth's career showed signs of a slump, the director-dad turned up trumps with Shock, the remake of a supernatural thriller, for his son. When visibility became imperative once again, he made the extravaganza called Ponnar Shankar, with his son in a dual role. Now with Mambattiyaan, he could well have put Prashanth on the way to a successful second innings. The hero has slogged it out – it's only fair the industriousness is rewarded.
Cast: Prashanth, Meera Jasmine, Prakash Raj, Vadivelu
Storyline: A Robin Hood who risks his life for a cause.
Bottomline: A better rewind!