In hyperlink cinema, one expects the emotional pull of multilinear narrative structures to keep us invested till the strands come together to catch us off-guard. In director-cinematographer Santosh Sivan’s Mumbaikar, a remake of Tamil hit Maanagaram, there is so much reliance on editing to underscore that we are watching a hyperlink film, that the whole idea of generating nervous energy becomes gimmicky.
The tedium sets in from the beginning perhaps because six years have passed since Lokesh Kanagaraj announced his arrival with Maanagaram. The theme lacks novelty and the surprise element is wafer-thin. For all the claims of being an action-thriller, you could pretty much guess the next twist and the upcoming punch. The issues of acid attacks, discrimination against migrants, and standing up to injustice have been dealt with in such lopsided fashion that they hardly make you feel the import.
Moreover, like some of the recent remakes of south Indian films, Mumbaikar sounds like a dubbed film. Hridoo Haroon is cast as the migrant from Uttar Pradesh who loses his UP Education Board degrees in a skirmish, but his voice has a distinct south Indian twang. Hridoo might look like a fish out of water but there is plenty of talent around him to keep the boat afloat in choppy waters. As a rebel in love, Vikrant Massey tries hard to make sense of his character. So does the equally bright Tania Maniktala. But in the absence of quality in the writing, they can hardly inject any real energy to the proceedings.
But just when you are about to give up on the film, Sivan changes gears and Vijay Sethupathi makes an entry with a bevy of inside jokes delivered in his cutesy Hindi that made him such a darling in Farzi. Playing a gangster-in-making who bungles his first kidnapping assignment, the mercurial actor invokes Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan and even Marlon Brando to evoke mirth; with his accent, he could get away with the harshest of words with a straight face. As Vijay employs his unhurried charm, we stop taking the film seriously and start laughing at the scenarios that the film offers.
Having said that, it is not the kind of terrain that tests the acting chops of Vikrant and Vijay, or for that matter, the versatility of seasoned supporting actors like Sachin Khedekar, Ranvir Shorey, and Sanjay Mishra. Perhaps Vikrant is attracted to a role that for a change allows him to flex his muscles. The film marks his Hindi debut, but Vijay Sethupathi is a little too spectacular for the size of the film. As for Sivan, Mumbaikar might well count as yet another directorial venture that doesn’t match his stature as a cinematographer.
Mumbaikar is currently streaming on Jio Cinema