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Mappillai: Son-in-law gets it all wrong

Appeared in Expresso, the daily supplement of The New Indian Express, on April 11, 2011

Rajnikanth’s tearaway 1989 hit, Mapillai (son-in-law), in which he cures his rich, tempestuous mother-in-law (Srividya) of her arrogance, is back in its new avatar. Ironically, the Superstar’s mapillai, Dhanush, reprises his father-in-law’s role in the original. The mathematical ‘onto’ relations, Srividya -> Manisha Koirala and Amala-> Hansika Motwani, describe the roles enacted by them.
Saravanan (Dhanush) is a devout person hailed by his neighbours as a role model to the youth, and marks his introduction with a song that begins with a remix of Madurai Somu’s Marudhamalai Maamaniye Muruga (clearly suggesting that he has failed to overcome the hangover from his earlier devotion-tinged movie, Seedan). Its blink-once-and-fall-in-love for Gayathri (Hansika), the daughter of Rajeshwari (Manisha Koirala), a construction firm owner, with Saravanan. The initial hesitations notwithstanding, Saravanan accepts her love and Rajeshwari (who gets introduced to the viewer in an ‘explosive’ manner, befitting an action hero), with the intention of bringing a docile son-in-law into the family, agrees to their match.
Director Suraaj then unleashes a series of flashbacks, in one of which, Rajeshwari is told that beneath Saravanan’s calm demeanour lies a mercurial, fearless attitude; the porukki (lout) who flaunts a beedi as a Clint Eastwood would a cheroot and would not hesitate to assault anyone. Its a deluge of punch dialogues and fight sequences from then on, as a head-on collision between Rajeshwari and Saravanan takes shape, with her attempts to cut him to size, unsurprisingly, biting the dust, engulfing the viewer in a feeling of déjà-vu by the interval itself.
Manisha Koirala returns to the silver screen after a long hiatus and does a fair job as expected of her; Hansika's presence is merely limited to providing eye-candy. The Dhanush-Manisha Koirala confrontation lacks the chutzpah that characterised the Rajnikanth-Srividya showdown in the original. Pattimandram Raja has been wasted in a role of little consequence. Malaysia Vasudevan’s hit number in the original, Ennoda raasi nalla raasi..., pops up in an insipid remix. This being a ‘mass-masala’ movie, it was surprising to see Vivek occupying centre-stage for the first ten minutes or so, until Dhanush’s first appearance.

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