Mandela Tamil Movie

Feature Film | 2021 | Comedy, Drama
Mandela has an interesting premise that talks about vote-bank politics and vote canvassing all while staying within the limits of a lighthearted, satirical entertainer. The movie is a tad repetitive, but it is held together beautifully by strong performances, starting with Yogi Babu as the titular character.
Apr 11, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

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Madonne Ashwin's first film as a director, Mandela, starts by showing the shitty state of affairs in a small Tamil Nadu village. The villagers who form the two groups in this story, namely the Northerners and Southerners, argue over who would first use the newly-built public toilet in the village. What starts as a heated debate turns into a messy physical fight, as Yogi Babu's hairdresser character watches it all unfold like an outsider looking in.

It is a fight that would continue as Babu's barber gets a voter's ID and his vote becomes the decisive one in the local election. The barber sleeps in a hammock-like bed tied to a tree's branches, and he has old cutting tools with wear and tear. The villagers treat him like shit and call him names that degrade his social status. But when he gets the right to vote, the Southerners and Northerners canvas him for that potentially decisive vote. What adds to the fun quotient in the film is that the two groups in the village go to great lengths to please Mandela for his vote.

Mandela has an interesting premise that talks about vote-bank politics and canvassing for votes all while staying within the confines of a lighthearted, satirical entertainer. Have you ever wondered why basic infrastructural facilities in India's villages stay underdeveloped until the election? If those are all developed, there may not be many campaign promises to make for our future leaders.

Mandela's central premise is about how even one man's vote could shape the future of our villages and villagers. The movie spends a considerable amount of its running time discussing who Yogi Babu's Mandela would vote for. It is not relevant as to who would get his vote, but a more pertinent factor is what would happen with that entitlement. The suspense over his eventual vote is a McGuffin for that reason. Think of it as the bull from Lijo Jose Pellissery's Jallikattu; it is not an important plot element on its own, but the film's plot would not progress without it either.

There are some nice touches in Mandela, which I would not like to discuss here to avoid spoilers. Madonne Ashwin's writing gets a tad repetitive after a point, making the film lengthy. We get too much of the verbal and physical battle between the Southerners and Northerners. Some more editing from Philomin Raj could have made Mandela crisper, more engaging. Anyhow, the film remains consistently engaging, and it is held together beautifully by a superbly understated Yogi Babu in the titular role. There is also an array of strong supporting characters here, most notably from Sheela Rajkumar as Thenmozhi, Kanna Ravi as Mathi, G. M. Sundar as Rathnam, and Sangili Murugan as Periya Ayya.

Mandela could not have come at a more politically relevant time in India. Today's real-life politicians do not hesitate to do even barbaric things just for electoral supremacy in their constituency. Despite its minor flaws, the movie works both as a cautionary tale on vote-bank politics and an entertaining drama. You may watch it on Netflix.

Sreejith Mullappilly