Seenu (Vishwa) is the son of a washer man. He spends his life walking around aimlessly in the clothes of his father's well-off customers. That is, until he happens to spot a girl (Tanvi Vyas) picking up a bird hatchling stranded in busy traffic, getting on the roof of a car and restoring it back in its nest. Questionable but heck, it's just masala. The guy falls in love with her (whose name is now known to be Mithra), joins the same class and college as she does, finds ways to be noticed by her and ends up fraternizing in her social circle, mainly with her and her childhood buddy Shyam (aptly westernized as Sam). I suggest you watch the film and then come back and read the rest of this review. Because, there are several spoilers ahead.
Being the only one in the group who hails from a working class background, Seenu feels privileged to be in their circle. His tone is very servile, often sounding like he's eager to take orders. At other times, he sounds like a toddler trying to impress his teacher. He even takes a beating for them when Mithra drives into an auto rickshaw, hurling it by the side of the road upturned.
Sam takes off elsewhere every now and then. Seenu makes the most of his time with Mithra until things go not quite as expected. They're at a mall. A customer notices Seenu in his clothes and goes after him. Seenu disappears. Mithra goes looking for Seenu and finds him sitting in a corner after being stripped down to his underwear. He sits there engulfed in shame for being exposed as a man from a working class family masquerading as one of them. She drapes her dupatta around him in a comforting way. This scene sequence is discomfiting and strangely original.
When Seenu is invited to Sam's birthday party, he smiles coyly excited about what he believes might be a lifetime experience. Cars, luxury, bungalow, and foreign liquor- this is a new world to him. And he's more than keen to explore. He knocks once on Mithra's bedroom door and walks inside to find Mithra taking a shower. He watches helplessly, nervously rooted to the spot. "The lonely shepherd" from Kill Bill plays in the background. The track gives the scene a finally-seen-the-light-of-day vibe. This voyeuristic act is witnessed by Sam. So foreign is it to Sam that he finds it unforgivably repulsive. A fight ensues the next day. In an attempt to resolve things with Sam, Seenu visits him at his place and reveals to him that he sincerely loves Mithra, firmly believing it to be a valid excuse for his done deed. Sam overreacts and a dreadful accident occurs. The best line of the film is uttered here when Sam calls Seenu's romantic intentions a product of local azhukku buddhi.
Where Vazhakku Enn 18/9 had its economic class examinations done in parallel, Eppadi Manasukkul Vandhai handles its interclass relationships and quite well, I must add. The manner in which Seenu makes his way into Mithra's social circle and his conduct in their company add more credibility than the romantic relationship he shares with Mithra; that's just regular Kollywood stuff.
Consider this film as regular Kollywood stuff and the music numbers are well-suited. Consider this as what it very well could've been- a first rate crime thriller and the music numbers are serious compromises. The music numbers are fine as long as Seenu chasing after Mithra remains in focus. But once there are other events of greater weight at hand, music numbers revolving around their affair tend to trivialize these weighty events. Mithra's point of view and their blossoming love should be in another film.
Eppadi Manasukkul Vandhai has an average masala story that is given superior treatment by an above-average Kollywood director. It then becomes a gripping crime thriller that is steered into the masala format, from time to time, for purposes of accessibility. P V Prasath is certainly smarter than the regulars. There are occasional contrivances and rushed decisions made by him, no doubt. But the film quickly gets back on track. The film also accommodates slapstick humour but the kind that works. After P V Prasath, the second most valuable person here is Cinematographer Vijay Milton, not just for his outstanding camerawork but for his believable dialogue. The performers are all very good. Vishwa, demonstrates versatility here providing serious depths and variations to his character, Seenu. Although Tanvi Vyas has some difficulty in emoting heavily, she does an overall satisfactory job and remains, throughout, an enchanting presence. Irfan, as Sam, delivers a subtle performance. P V Prasath has picked just the right faces for his characters. A J Daniel's score, sampling many pre-existing tracks, is fitting. His music numbers, however, threaten to break the very mood that his score creates. But again, this is masala.
Eppadi Manasukkul Vandhai ends up in extreme cop brutality. I like how the cop takes pride in his status of being a cop; not for doing good service but for believing that he is certified as being smarter, and sharper, than the average human being. You'll have to take one look at him and you'll feel him see through you, as if he's reading your mind. He's not just inherently suspicious, he's instinctively suspicious. When new shades of his character are revealed, he becomes charismatically evil. Ravi Kale, brilliant job.
Seenu has the power to perceptively relive past experiences, not just of his but that of others too. This ability is what gives him an edge at surviving through these dire circumstances. We see this ability first at the very beginning where he retraces his footsteps as he searches for a key he misplaced. We see it again when he retraces Mithra's footsteps with the hope of finding her chain. These sequences could feel dragged, but not here, the material in fine hands. This ability comes handier when he tracks down a sneaky detective before they physically confront each other in a stylized fight sequence that's sharply shot and quickly cut. And then finally when he traces the footsteps of a double crossing cop to find the evidence he needs to destroy, just so that he can go on to live with an undocumented past.
The Talented Mr.Ripley is one of P V Prasath's obvious inspirations. The relationship shared between Seenu and Sam's best friend is exactly like the one between Matt Damon and Philip Seymour Hoffman. By crossing the line several times, Seenu goes from likeable simpleton to potential rapist to scheming bastard. Yet you root for him until the very end. Not because you still like him but because you feel pity for his character and understand the accidental nature of the situation he's come to be trapped in.
Critic: Rohit Ramachandran
(3.5 / 5) : Very Good