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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Simbu in a still from&nbsp;<em>Maanaadu.</em></p></div>
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Maanaadu Review: Simbu-Starrer Time-Loop Thriller Takes a Bold Political Stand

Maanaadu is a 'comeback' for Simbu whose career has been a nosedive and a fresh lease of life for Venkat Prabhu.

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Movie Reviews
6 min read

Maanaadu Review: Simbu-Starrer Time-Loop Thriller Takes a Bold Political Stand

UNPREDICTABLE – with all the letters in caps sums up Venkat Prabhu’s Maanaadu. It is an edge of the seat thriller which will make you forget about your mobile phone as even a blink of an eye may make you miss a moment, in this tight time-loop tale.

A lot has been watched in this genre – as Simbu’s Abdul Khaliq (“Khaliq not Khalid”, nicely done Simbu!) tells his buddies midway into the film – “All those time-loop movies narrate just what happens in the day but they don’t tell you why it all happens that way!”

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Silambarasan Thesingu Rajendar or Simbu in a still from&nbsp;<em>Maanaadu.</em></p></div>

Silambarasan Thesingu Rajendar or Simbu in a still from Maanaadu.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

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Maanaadu tells you the how and the why and the what for. This story is a bit tough to be summed in a review (in the name of spoilers) and that is the first hurrah for writer Venkat Prabhu.

The performances cannot be outrun by any other previous performance of the actors and that is the second hurrah for director Venkat Prabhu. The film is a “comeback” for Simbu, whose nose-diving career has seen a sudden flight forward with this action-packed performance in Maanaadu. The film is also a fresh lease of life for Venkat Prabhu himself!

True cinematic success lies in craft meeting the cash register. Maanaadu is that film for Venkat Prabhu where the film’s potential for a super-hit was written large in the first look poster itself.

Well into fifteen minutes of the film, I was already on the edge of my seat. Small dots of information, symbols (kuriyeedu as they say in Tamil) and dialogue from key characters (quite a breezy, pleasant performance by Kalyani Priyadarshan) lead us to the first event for which Simbu is inside the fated aircraft which crosses Ujjain enroute from Delhi to Coimbatore.

There is talk of “signs” and “tidings” everywhere, those which occur just before a big calamity is about to take place, and there are many in this story. They lead you to keep guessing along with the events that unfold. Where is Simbu going? What is the real agenda? How is he caught in this specific time-loop? What is the myth or history behind the flight crossing Ujjain? How is he going to avoid the face-off with the one man who holds a gun to his head?

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Simbu in a still from&nbsp;<em>Maanaadu.</em></p></div>

Simbu in a still from Maanaadu.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Myriad situations come and go which result in one huge reveal at interval point – the time-loop is not just for Simbu but also for SJ Suryah (Oh and his name is Dhanushkodi, do go figure!). And what a hoot (and hot) introduction scene SJ Suryah gets! The more villainous the antagonist, the better it is for the hero to emerge victorious. Maanaadu sees a face-off like nowhere else before, in terms of both matching brain and brawn between Simbu and SJ Suryah. The character actors we see in this film are familiar faces in unfamiliar roles.

Let me try writing a short description of Maanaadu’s story: The finish-offs in each time loop results in one ending and a hero who goes about “correcting” that ending but who is also willing to sacrifice himself for the larger good and the hero is a Muslim man, (I pause to take a breath and the story is not yet done!) and added to all this is: Maanaadu a high-end political thriller as well.

There are mind-blowing action blocks with a fierce as hell Simbu. Special mention: Stunt Silva Master who also makes an appearance. One particular soliloquy scene by SJ Suryah showcases his histrionics but not without a jibe from Simbu to Premgi on how he (meaning Dhanushkodi) will outdo Premgi in over-acting!

<div class="paragraphs"><p>S J Suryah plays a cop in Venkat Prabhu's&nbsp;<em>Maanaadu.</em></p></div>

S J Suryah plays a cop in Venkat Prabhu's Maanaadu.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The chuckle is followed by SJ Suryah’s acting-piece which actually holds the scene so well. His neat appearance belies his damaged intentions and what a delectable villain he makes! The scene where Abdul Khaliq and Dhanushkodi meet towards the climax is a verbal match of nerves. Who will relent to whom? Who will kill whom?

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The film’s tone has the Venkat Prabhu brand of humor which picks up speed as the film progresses, like Simbu’s character which picks up momentum first as a fast walk, then as a trot, then a jog and finally a jet-speed track-run (the last sprint out of the airport is guaranteed to make you go wow!)

Abdul Khaliq also has the onus of giving a perspective of what ails the politics of this land; in simple words - on how one wrong blame on one man is a whole lot of blame to carry for an entire community, generation after generation, a blame which will take centuries to offset.

Along with not missing your mobile phone, you will also not miss the songs in Maanaadu but you will come out of the theatre loving Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music, more. The BGM is a rough and tough mix of staccato flutes and drum rolls and South-Indian percussion, which stays with you forever.

The chase and action blocks apart, the music for SJ Suryah in particular, elevates his scenes and the more elevated he gets, the tougher it becomes for Simbu to match up and the beauty lies in Simbu (as Khaliq) finally matching up! As he says in the film’s interval shot, “Naa Thirumba Varen,” (I’ll come back) Maanaadu is a Terminator-zone contest, the differentiating factor being SJ Suryah’s character which also precedes Simbu’s moves and the two collide at one point pre-climax to give a heady finish to a crescendo film.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Simbu, as Khaliq, is stuck in a time loop in&nbsp;<em>Maanaadu.</em></p></div>

Simbu, as Khaliq, is stuck in a time loop in Maanaadu.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Of all the films Venkat Prabhu has made, I’ve a soft corner for Mass, the ghost story starring Suriya Sivakumar. It is a well-made film which somehow didn’t find its box-office target. A typical Venkat Prabhu film has an earnestness to show something different, something humorous and something not seen before– a nonchalance in its characters, an irreverence to norms which is reflective of Gen-Next.

Sometimes the intention to make a good film doesn’t always become a good film. But there are those times when it hits bull’s eye. Maanaadu is not a perfect film but it is a complete riot of a film in many ways which is made with a larger audience in mind.

The ingenuity of the writing and direction lies in making a Nolan-esque film accessible to the common man. The success of such out-of-the-box films lies in making the audience feel intelligent along with you.

This is a film in which each person will check with the person sitting next to them (even if it’s a stranger) on how they’ve cracked this time-loop concept. They say a lot can happen over a coffee. But a lot can happen over a Venkat Prabhu film as well!

Despite delays in its release and hectic financial tensions, the film has opened on 25 November to one of the largest and grandest openings a director-hero combination can ever have. So, does that mean there are no issues to nitpick? What is a review without at least a few cribs? My counter question to that is “Do those cribs affect the overall viewing experience of the film?” the answer is no.

Go enjoy the Return of Simbu, the Histrionics of SJ Suryah, the musical energy of Yuvan and the cool direction of Venkat Prabhu. Maanaadu is a film where he has not shied away from speaking his politics. Now, in the Tamil Nadu of today, that is indeed a bold stand to take.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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