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Maanagaram  ( UA ) (2017)  (Tamil)
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Maanagaram Review

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This is going to be one of the few reviews that spells out the verdict first and then would delve into how grittily the screenplay was knitted with a fine craft!. And, the verdict is: GO FOR IT!   | Baranidharan S (NOWRUNNING)
When was the last time a movie made me vouch for it to be labelled as a "must watch", for not just movie buffs but to that section of the audience who wait for that 'one movie' to be watched in theatres? These are the days where even a star's movie or a star director's movie struggles to command a visit to the theatres, thanks to piracy and pampering-technology. In this context, think of the plight of low-budget movies like Maanagaram, whose content, on its own merit, emphatically begs for a box office success! This is going to be one of the few reviews that spells out the verdict first and then would delve into how grittily the screenplay was knitted with a fine craft!. And, the verdict is: GO FOR IT!

The movie is an urban thriller set in Chennai and has a multi-layered thread that crisscrosses and correlates during the climax. There are 4 parallel threads, one involving Shri who hails from Trichy and lands at a BPO job in Chennai, another one involving Charlie, who leaves his hometown for a better healthcare for his ailing son, then the one with the hot-headed Sundeep Kishan who woos a reluctant Regina Cassandra and finally a botched kidnapped attempt that involves the top goon in the city.

To be honest, after Aaranya Kaandam, this was one of the few movies that felt complete as a craft. Here the comparison is because both the movies are multilayered and at some level tend to narrate the pangs of urban living among people who migrate to cities to make ends meet.

Beyond the well-orchestrated thrills, there were so many subtle aspects that can be inferred from the movie. The movie quite poignantly captures the very essence of the urbane "pressure" - that urge to survive among the haves and have-nots against all odds. Take for instance the character of Charlie, who takes up a driver's job, only to cater to his son's medical needs. Though he is informed of the risks involved in leasing a cab from a dreaded goon, he is prepared to foil that thought at the back of his mind and takes the plunge.

Another such instance arises during the conversation between the much younger Shri and the middle-aged Charlie on the cons of city living, brings out some stark and naked truth on what sort of a society that we have evolved into and how our perceived needs have transformed us into helpless materialists with a proud "pragmatic" shield.

As mentioned before, the movie's screenplay was well knitted with different threads made to criss-cross at the right time in order to create those 'wow' moments in the screenplay and to keep the audience guessing on what would happen next.

Also, the craft involved while narrating this gritty story was commendable. For e.g. the initial sequence where Shri gets attacked by a bunch and is left helpless on the street, the film's title starts rolling. That involved some animation of various sequences and how the dog-eat-dog low life in the city is. A sequence where ashes from a puff fall into the drain below, and then onto a rat, which tries to escape - it sort of conveys a lot of in depth meaning of a city's low life where each act is connected and results in a chain reaction.

Music by Javed Riaz was apt and captured the mood of the scenes. Though using the FM as the BGM tool is a tried and tested technique (again thanks to Aaranya Kaandam which introduced it in the first place), it was used sensibly to showcase the time of the day and added to the detailing.

Performances from the leads and the supporting cast should be lauded. Sha Ra, the YouTube star (Temple Monkeys), has made a decent debut. Munishkanth as the naive kidnapper was a revelation. Ravi Venkataraman as the wicked cop was in his elements. Charlie as the mild-mannered small town man puts up a seasoned show. The leads, Shri and Sundeep Kishan were also a fine fit for their respective roles.

Technically the movie was on par with any film that would be multiple times its budget. Chennai's urban milieu with its dark and disturbing underbelly has been painted with tinted frames by cinematographer Selvakumar and has been duly supported by sharp cuts from editor Philomin.

Last but certainly not the least, debutant director Lokesh Kanagaraj, who seems to be yet another self-made filmmaker, risen through the short film phenomenon, has to be commended for an effort where no frame in the entire movie could be sidelined as amateurish or unwanted. Great effort!

A final request to my dear readers and film buffs, please support such brilliant efforts from filmmakers who make wonders with a shoestring budget by watching these movies in theatres. I am sure this would be available in a day or two in a pirated streaming site, but strictly avoid, and go for it only in theatres, after all, such films have become a rarity in Tamil cinema!
NOW IN THEATERS
Critic: Baranidharan S
 4 out of 5 (Very Good) 4 out of 5 (Very Good)  

WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN:
0.0 - 1.4 : Poor
1.5 - 1.7: Poor, A Few Good Parts
1.8 - 2.3: Average
2.4 - 2.9: Fairly Good
3.0 - 3.4: Good
3.5 - 5.0: Very Good

Critics Rating: |  1 Review
4.0
 4.0 out of 5 (Very Good) 4.0 out of 5 (Very Good)  
Audience Rating
3.3
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