If someone wrote a book about Simbu’s life, there wouldn’t be a boring or uneventful page in it. So much has happened in Simbu’s career and life in the last 10 years: he found love, he lost love. He flaunted six pack abs and then became overweight. He had blockbusters and he had none. At times his career seemed to be improving and then it seemed like he was on the brink of total collapse. Some big names in the industry supported him during his tough times. And then it seemed like he was lonely and he became something of an outcast in the industry, which he has been a part of since he was a child.
Last year, Simbu seems to have hit the reset button. And he’s trying to reverse all his past mistakes by not repeating the same thing in the future. From losing all the extra weight you gained during your downtime to completing the shoot ahead of schedule, it looks like you’re on the right track. And he couldn’t have asked for a better movie than Maanaadu to kick off his new entries in his career. The movie is about a hero who has the power to restart the day, allowing him to correct all the mistakes he made every step of the way.
You see that our hero Abdul Khaaliq (Simbu) does not travel in time. You just live the same day over and over again, until you get it right. It reminds us of at least three major Hollywood blockbusters in which the protagonist finds himself in the same situation: Bill Murray’s classic Groundhog Day, Tom Cruise’s modern epic, Edge of Tomorrow and, of course, the latest. Andy Samberg romantic comedy, Palm Springs.
Abdul Khaaliq travels to Ooty from Dubai to help his friend, played by Premgi Amaren, whose girlfriend is about to get married. The plan is simple: break into the wedding door, find the girl, take her, and drive her away from the wedding venue before anyone realizes the bride is missing. But, Khaaliq ends up being part of a grand conspiracy to assassinate Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, Arivazhagan (SA Chandrasekhar). Led by Dhanushkodi (SJ Suryah), the conspiracy is to kill the CM, blame a Muslim, and orchestrate communal riots to disturb the peace of the state for the benefit of a few. Once again, with the arrival of Khaaliq, Dhanushkodi’s perfect assassination plan is derailed.
Khaaliq has to keep dying until he prevents tomorrowadu (the political rally) from happening or many innocents will be injured. Director Venkat Prabhu, who has also written the film, does a lot of things well. And he’s also been very smart in embracing ambiguity in dialogue, protecting him from endless controversies and lawsuits. Khaaliq refers to many incidents that caused political storms in the country, but is never specified. “Something like this happened some time ago, not here.” And when Khaaliq says it more than once, we know exactly what he’s talking about without Venkat getting into trouble.
Venkat also lends mythological weight to Maanaadu by effortlessly weaving the legend of Kala Bhairava into the backstory of communal unrest. Venkat has several catchy ideas and has enticed them together. But, when all the fun dies down, if you’re burned out by any knowledge of film history, you’ll understand that this movie is nothing more than Venkat putting together different parts of various blockbuster movies. And what is missing is a detailed writing that allows us to enter the minds of the characters. What we get instead are some generic lines about how wrong to alienate an entire community for political gain. We already know that it is wrong, it is not necessary to repeat it. What we want is for films dealing with these kinds of themes to take us to a different place and open us to a new emotion, which has remained buried in plain sight until now.
But Maanaadu offers more reasons to celebrate. In particular, the performance of SJ Suryah, who brings the circus to town. He attracts genuine laughter with his reactions to mind-blowing events. And he also knows exactly what is expected of him and delivers it to perfection. Movie editing is another great advantage. Editor Praveen KL’s work brings a lot of clarity to the film, making it enjoyable for a wider audience, who don’t have to break their heads to understand the concept before being able to appreciate the narrative, which is played in a loop.
The endless loop and the seemingly endless efforts of the protagonists to get out of the time trap have an innate novelty. You respond to such movies as many characters in these movies as if you were seeing such a concept for the first time. We are not bothered by the latest movie with the same theme as long as the current movie is nice.