Cinema

Manamantha: A web of stories

Mohanlal in Manamantha

Mohanlal in Manamantha  

‘Manamantha’ has a complex narrative that presents facets of middle class lives

Chandra Sekhar Yeleti’s Manamantha unravels like a well-written book. Like chapters in a book, he reveals personalities of each of the four principal characters through day-to-day incidents and builds their stories. These characters present different facets of middle class.

Sairam (Mohanlal), an assistant manager in a supermarket, is perpetually in debt. He even borrows a few thousands from a store assistant. Gayatri (Gautami) is a housewife struggling to make ends meet. She seeks happiness in little things, like grocery shopping with her neighbour (Urvashi). Abhiram (Viswant) is a bright student who soldiers on with his old and bulky laptop. Mahita (Raina Rao) is an endearing school girl who takes a liking to a four-year-old boy who lives in a slum and will do what she can to see that he goes to a school.

The stories unfold at an unhurried pace to disclose their dreams, aspirations and hurdles along the way. There are no easy solutions to problems and not all characters are squeaky clean. Imagining that he’s being pushed to the brink and believing that a promotion to the post of a manager is his only hope, Sairam discovers his darker side. Mohanlal is pitch perfect as Sairam, reflecting the frustrations of a guy caught in a grey zone and wallowing in guilt. The actor needs to be commended for his effort to speak in Telugu. His Telugu is laced with a Malayalam accent but lends authenticity to his part. Cleverly, the makers insert a line where Mohanlal admits he isn’t good with the language.

Yeleti draws fine performances from his cast. Mohanlal is excellent as the guy trying to find his way out of a mess he’s created. You empathise with Gautami as she goes through the unrelenting circle of middle class life. When she says she yearns for respect, nothing more could be apt. Urvashi, as always, is a treat to watch. Her portions with Gautami bring the much-needed comic relief in an otherwise serious film. Raina Rao is impressive as the warm-hearted school girl who goes out of her way to put a smile on the face of her four-year-old friend.

Watching their stories, one wants to know more about them and the families they come from. As he shifts seamlessly from one story to another, Yeleti reveals just enough to keep his viewers intrigued. Where essential, there are insights into the lives of the supporting characters as well, whether it’s Harshavardhan who competes with Mohanlal for the manager post or the thug who does odd jobs for money. The four-year-old boy also makes a mark. In a brief role, Vennela Kishore adds to the humour.

The only story that feels weaker than the rest is that of Viswant and Anisha Ambrose. The scene where Anisha has a gift for Viswant triggers memories of O. Henry’s ‘Gift of Magi’.

There are no convenient coincidences and as the four stories move at a frenetic pace towards a conclusion, you hope they have brighter things in store. The link between the stories comes in a way one least expects. The brilliance of Yeleti’s writing is evident when the first of the links is revealed. But he isn’t done, yet. A few more ends need to be tied.

Manamantha is narrated with a lot of conviction and the stories merit a discussion. The only grouse is with how Gautami’s journey ended. But it wouldn’t be possible to discuss it here without giving away the end.

Manamantha

Cast: Mohanlal, Gautami, Viswant and Raina Rao

Direction: Chandra Sekhar Yeleti

Rating: 3.5

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 10:14:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Manamantha-A-web-of-stories/article14553215.ece

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