"You are like my sister. Okay?" says Karthik (Dhanush) to Yamini (Richa Gangopadhyay). You've heard this cliched dialogue a number of times but set within the circumstances surrounding it, this doesn't come across as a movie dialogue. You know it is being uttered by a person in desperate want of a better way of conveying it. She wants him but sticks with merely suggesting it so that the responsibility of catapulting their love triangle, involving Karthik's best friend Sundar, to conclusion would fall on his shoulders. The sticky situation right here is a subplot. The film, however, is about Karthik's crawl up the slippery slope of professional photography.
The first half of the movie is dialogue reliant and familiarizes you with its characters. It also sets the tone of the film and you choose to abide by it because you're sure Selvaraghavan has something to say. The interval had me sitting in my seat puzzled and wondering about how such a film could possibly conclude. After accepting the film's serious nature, surely you expect a strong social statement from Selvaraghavan. The second half of Mayakkam Enna makes its way in as a satire. It's strangely funny especially the presence of Sundar's dad quietly offering alcohol as a solution to problems. Nevertheless, this treatment was out of place and inconsistent with the film's tone. It works independently but impedes the experience that you think the film is about to provide.
Karthik loses all faith in humanity when he is deceived by the same person he worships. The one person he idolizes. The one person he sees himself becoming. And when that person lives Karthik's dream, he is enraged beyond words and things take a foggy turn for both Karthik and Selvaraghavan. Karthik, instead of learning from the experience throws it away letting the burning passion for photography die out. He's consumed by anger, an anger that is directed everywhere other than its primary source. On feeling guilty for being responsible for a certain mishap, he has a moment of clarity; which he uses to pick up the pieces and channelize his anger constructively.
Dhanush displays fine acting talent by staying grounded with the character and delivers one of his best performances on par with his performances in Pudhupettai and Aadukalam. Richa Gangopadhyay delivers a startling performance, something you don't see coming from a debutant especially because you think this is Dhanush's movie. Her character appears to be an absolute icicle of a human being, staying cold and non-confrontational with everyone around her. She is also the character that most frequently poses for the camera with an affected smile- Selvaraghavan pointing out that we wear masks. With the movie, she melts and you see that she is a strong willed person who sticks by the choices she's made. You might want an explanation for that change, but this is not her story. This is Karthik's.
G V Prakash is the sensory motor of Mayakkam Enna. His instrumental theme brings out the epic nature of Karthik's vigorous battle for his passion. The two chartbusters "Voda voda" and "Kadhal en Kadhal" accompany the film's events well and both tracks will take turns at getting stuck in your head. The other tracks accompany montages that condense less important events while moving the film forward. Ramji's cinematography is exquisite when you peer through the lens of Karthik's camera. Otherwise, he sticks to serving the film. Mayakkam Enna has been crisply edited by Kola Bhaskar making it the director's shortest film yet.
Selvaraghavan speaks to his audience in a number of ways and his expression gets across without needing the characters to voice it. There is an undercurrent of Selvaraghavan's contempt for the younger generation in Mayakkam Enna. It's there in all the little details; you're likely to miss it on the first viewing. But if you do, you will see that there's a lot he frowns upon. Like Karthik's only association with god is when he submits his photographs with a Vibudhi on his forehead. Selvaraghavan's dialogues also hint at the strained relationships between siblings as they grow older and the competitive rivalry between their nuclear families. His characterization attests that people today are self-centered to such a point that they are eroded of their humanity. A certain sequence of scenes involving a Kumudham magazine accidentally ending up in a pile of magazines long listed for an IPC award implies that luck is always a factor in achieving success. Those scenes, in the hands of the average Kollywood director would be treated as a cop-out twist. But Selvaraghavan compiles them so tightly and with restraint that you have to pay attention to notice it. Whether you agree with Selvaraghavan or not is immaterial, he expresses himself fluently and if you listen to his voice you will find the movie's soul.
Having finished with praising the film, I'll have to point out that Mayakkam Enna has a gaping hole which questions the time capsule of its events. Don't read past this if you haven't seen the movie because there are spoilers ahead. Karthik is nominated for an IPC award for best photograph beside someone falsely credited for Karthik's photo. This implies that it took place the same year. These award ceremonies take place every year. Not only did Karthik get married, he met with a near-death experience, he healed and managed to impregnate his wife twice. So much drama in a year? Or did the earth take a break between revolutions? I know, it's just a still frame in the film but it confounds the viewer. That's not all, Yamini refuses to speak with Karthik because she's angry with him for causing a miscarriage but she allows him to re-plant his seed in her. What's this? Role-play in the shoes of a comatose patient? These things didn't spoil the experience for me but it did affect the memory of it. They didn't have to be so cinematic.
Critic: Rohit Ramachandran
(3.5 / 5) : Very Good