‘Magamuni’ movie review: Arya headlines this offbeat, non-commercial revenge saga that gets many things right


‘Mouna Guru’ director Santhakumar comes back to filmmaking after a eight-year gap, but has not lost touch with the craft, going by this understated drama

Who is a rowdy? Is he someone who bashes up 10 goons in front of a crowd? Or is he someone who is quiet and understated, and who doesn’t show off his gethu?

This is a question that a son asks his father, Maga (Arya), in Magamuni, and the dad — a person who provides a ‘sketch’ to gangsters to kill people — gives him a detailed explanation on who, essentially, is a rowdy. He is a thug himself, and this is not a conversation you would expect between a doting father and son at a bakery when they are munching cake. But then, Magamuni is filled with such surprises.

It tells the tale of two people —Maga and Muni (both played by Arya). While the former is the rowdy (and probably the most silent in Tamil cinema history), the latter is a pious school teacher who firmly believes in the world of books and how they can change children.

They are both growing up in different places and in different social milieus, and the challenges they face are starkly different. Maga is working for a politician, who is keen on settling scores with his rival. Muni is content teaching kids in his neighbourhood, but he has to face a group of villagers who are discriminate him because of his caste.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Cast: Arya, Mahima Nambiar, Indhuja, Ilavarasu
  • Storyline: The lives of brothers separated at birth meet at one point

Maga doesn’t quite believe in God. Muni practises yoga and delivers sermons on who God is.

Magamuni cuts to their stories back to back — its screenplay structure is unique — and takes its time to settle down (pacing isn’t exactly one of its strong points), but once it does, it really gets going.

Director Santhakumar comes back to filmmaking after a eight-year gap (his Mouna Guru hit screens in 2011) but has not lost touch with the craft, going by Magamuni. Not only is his story narrative unique, his writing of the various characters are also well fleshed out and detailed. Maga and Muni are well defined, but Santhakumar takes that extra step with his female leads. Take Deepa (Mahima Nambiar), for instance. In another film, she would have been just a romantic angle with a song sequence. But here, she has many more layers, and it helps that Mahima is on top of her game. Watch out for that one sequence in which she confronts her father; it is charged with tension thanks to her intensity. It is another matter altogether that this well-written character gets no closure in the end.

The last half hour of Magamuni answers a lot of questions in our heads and even as they unravel, there’s still a fair bit of social commentary that is made. A character talks about God, while another bemoans the issue of caste. The dialogues are sharp, but seem like a force fit in a few sequences, like the one in which Muni looks at a tree filled with plastic bags and says, “Jaati plastic maari, ozhikka kashtama irukku.”

Arya’s bold decision to pick an offbeat subject like Magamuni and give one of his better performances in it is worthy of praise. His portrayal of Muni, a character that seems to have been plucked out of director Bala’s handbook, is understated but it is as Maga that he really shines. He gets help from some apt background score (by Thaman) that supplements the mood of the sequences. All this has a lot going for Magamuni, a decent take on karma and how what goes around comes around.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:17:04 AM |

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