Mambattiyan, in true Kollywood style, takes the audience for granted with the usual goofs. Long before the filmmaker Thiagarajan is credited, pops up the disclaimer 'All the jewellery in the film is real and bought from Joyalukkas.' To begin with, the first music number is played right after the protagonist's parents are butchered for being defiantly honest. How adept Kollywood is at dehumanizing its characters and trivializing their misfortunes! I opened my review of Thiagarajan's 'Ponnar Shankar' with "Unlike the title suggests, Ponnar and Shankar aren't subjects of the film; they're objects." In Mambattiyan, Mambattiyan is the only subject of the film and everyone else, viewers included, are treated as objects. After the death of his parents, Mambattiyan assumes the role of Robin Hood. The poor people depend on him but pay their dues by refusing to squeal on him to the cops. A spy is sent to the village to impersonate Mambattiyan with the aim of tarnishing his image, which he does by raping women and harassing the poor. The cops rely more on the people's faith (or the lack of it) than their own rifles.
Establishing Mambattiyan's character seems to be the primary motive of the movie. He has one character trait- he's an altruist and his creator, Thiagarajan doesn't think one act of altruism is enough for us to understand that. When the going is good for Mambattiyan, he is wrongly accused of rape. However, when the opportunity of clearing it up presents itself, the rape victim is found hanging from the ceiling fan. Mambattiyan, the willing scapegoat, is brought to the elders of the village for punishment. Just hearing that a few minutes of flogging is enough to provide justice to a rape victim is enough to give you whiplash. A baby finds itself in the middle of a chase and Mambattiyan has to make the inevitable choice of saving the baby as opposed to saving himself. Thiagarajan just wants to take Mambattiyan's altruistic nature to its pinnacle. Only a screenwriter who doesn't have enough faith in his characterization would need to resort to such measures to get us to connect with the character.
If you intend to see Mambattiyan, don't. You've already seen this movie staged elsewhere with different people. You already know what every scene means and what's going to come next. So when the music tells you what to feel, it is just Thiagarajan condescending to the viewers. The characters feel only a little bit of everything. When they're supposed to be exhausted, they're tired. When they're supposed to be overwrought, they feel scared. When they're supposed to feel elated, they simply smile. They are never able to transcend feeling and touch emotion. The crew is at it like routine. The actors stick with being actors, Vadivel is an intruder and Thiagarajan's brings nothing new to the table. The only person who's keen on doing anything at all is Cinematographer Shahji who makes the most with the establishing shots since the material cannot offer him any better.
Critic: Rohit Ramachandran
(1 / 5) : Poor