Tamil Movie Reviews:
It is understandable when a director whose films haven't been big commercial successes, switches genres or styles. But why would a director whose last 2 films were big hits, switch back to the formula that he used before them and which gave him less success? That's what Cheran has done in Maayakkannaadi. Abandoning the personal and emotional style he used in Autograph and Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, he goes back to delivering a message-based film. Well-intentioned but long, flimsy and self-indulgent, the film is the weakest effort yet from the director.
Kumar(Cheran) and Maheshwari(Navya), who both work at beauty salons, are lovers. Neither of them comes from a rich family(Kumar's family is back in his village, waiting for him to come back home, and Maheshwari is the daughter of a bus driver) but they yearn for a rich lifestyle where they have enough money to throw around. After unsuccessfully trying their hands at being LIC insurance agents, Kumar decides to try his luck in the film industry. But they find out that opportunities are not easy to come by.
Cheran and Navya aren't a very likeable couple in Maayakkannaadi. While he has essentially abandoned his family and is spending the little money he gets on himself and his girlfriend, she is someone who is pretty selfish and doesn't understand her family's situation. Protagonists don't always have to be likeable but the lack of it is a problem in a film where we follow their struggle to succeed. We end up watching the two of them in a detached mode and so their situation never has the impact of the struggle faced by the protagonists in Mugavari or even Kodambakkam.
The other factor that doesn't help the couple gain our sympathy is the humor. Subtle humor, like the comments made by Cheran's roommate, is nice and even welcome. But overt attempts at humor, like Cheran's 'training' session, come in the way of him gaining our sympathy. We're never sure if we are supposed to root for him or laugh at him!
Cheran's strengths are clearly the emotions created by familial bonds. A single phone conversation Cheran has with his family back in the village manages to raise sympathy for them though we never see the family at the other end of the conversation. And Navya's family is a very believable, down-to-earth lower middle class family with understandable problems and conversations. The problem is he doesn't spend much time on them. Instead we are treated to Cheran and Navya, who, I don't think, fit anybody's definition of a cute couple, be romantic and Cheran, who I don't think, fits anybody's definition of a star, appear in a variety of getups as he dreams of making it big in Kodambakkam.
The film traverses a path that's a little unexpected in the second half. Though it doesn't help the film's underlying message much(I couldn't see how Cheran could have avoided this path even if he had continued in his job at the beauty salon and not dabbled in cinema) but it brings in some variety since we finally see something other Cheran trying to become a big star.
Inspite of sounding preachy, Radharavi's final monologue makes some fine points. The examples he gives and the way he brings in his own experiences make sense and it is definitely sound - even if a bit long - advice. Its just that aftet three and a half long hours, even a few minutes of advice, however sound, seems too much!
Cheran the actor overwhelms Cheran the director here. Cheran seems to have indulged in his desire to wear fancy clothes, dance and speak long dialogs. Though he does most of these under the pretense of dreaming, that doesn't make it any easier for us to watch him strut his stuff. But if you discount the unsuitable hairstyle and unflattering getups, Cheran the actor does a decent job. He is able to bring out the initial arrogance as well as the arrogance gradually turning to frustration as he understands that success isn't going to be easy. His experiences have a sobering effect on him and he is able to convey this well. Navya just cannot do cute. She comes off looking a little mentally offbalance when she tries to be sweet or romantic. But like Cheran, she is solid in the emotional scenes and believable when she is scared for him. Radharavi manages to convincingly deliver the last monologue, which the full movie is geared towards but doesn't have much to do otherwise.
Ilaiyaraja's songs are unremarkable but sound good with the movie. Konjam Konjam... is a typical Raja melody. His voice(or the picturization) doesn't suit Enga Vandhe... but is perfect for Kaadhan Indru... and Kaasu Kaiyil.... Ulagile Azhagi... is a nice melody but the dresses and wigs of Cheran and Navya make sure we don't enjoy the song!