Review: ‘Maamannan,’ starring Vadivelu, Udhayanidhi Stalin, Fahadh Faasil and Keerthy Suresh

July 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Vadivelu and Udhayanidhi Stalin in “Maamannan” (Photo by Red Giant Movies)


Directed by Mari Selvaraj

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the action film “Maamannan” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two political families have a power struggle, and their feud becomes deadly.

Culture Audience: “Maamannan” will appeal primarily to people who want to watch repetitive and repulsive violence from mostly unlikable characters.

Fahadh Faasil in “Maamannan” (Photo by Red Giant Movies)

“Maamannan” is hate-filled, idiotic garbage with excessive scenes of animal cruelty. It rehashes the same old plots of family feuds and murderous revenge that have already been done in much better ways in many other action flicks. The scenes of animal murders are especially heinous because they’re filmed in close-ups and in slow-motion with enhanced sound effects, as if the director wants viewers to wallow in all the gratuitous gore. It’s disgusting.

Written and directed by Mari Selvaraj, “Maamannan” is yet another violent action flick about family members out for revenge. In this story, which takes place in an unnamed city in India, two political families are feuding with each. The patriarch of one family is Maamannan (played by Vadivelu), who is a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) and a speaker of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly.

Even though the movie is named after Maamannan, he’s not the main protagonist of the story. Maamannan’s prodigal son Athiveeran, nicknamed Veera (played by Udhayanidhi Stalin), is the “star” character of the movie. Stalin is also the producer of “Maamannan.” In other words, it’s easy to make yourself the star of a movie if you’re paying for the movie to get made.

On the other side of the feud is district secretary Rathnavelu (played by Fahadh Faasil), a truly evil villain who has been in a power struggle with Maamannan for quite some time. Rathnavelu, who is close to Veera’s age, is scion of a wealthy political dynasty that is part of the dominant community in this district. The dynasty includes Rathnavelu’s father Salem Sundaram (played by Azhagam Perumal) and Rathnavelu’s elder brother Shanmugavel (played by Sunil Reddy), who are corrupt but not nearly as monstrous as Rathnavelu.

Rathnavelu and Maamannan have been locked into a dispute over the close election results for Maamannan’s position. Rathnavelu has declared himself the victor, but Maamannan is contesting this election. Rathnavelu has been pressuring Maamannan to give up and concede the election to Rathnavelu. Maamannan, who is a little wimpy and naive, is contemplating what to do.

Veera has had a tense relationship for years with Maamannan, ever since Veera was about 15 or 16 years old, and he temporarily ran away from home after being attacked. Veera was wrongfully blamed for the attack, which tainted his reputation. Veera never really forgave his father for not being as supportive as Veera expected.

Now in his 40s, Veera owns a martial arts dojo, where most of his students are teenage boys and young men. The dojo is how Veera meets Leela (played by Keerthy Suresh), who is a teacher at a school for underprivileged kids. Veera and Leela begin dating each other soon after they meet.

Veera eventually introduces Leela to his parents. Maamannan shows his sexism when he comments to Veera later that Leela isn’t very ladylike because Leela has a tendency to wear jeans and athletic shoes. Veera’s mother Veerayi (played by Geetha Kailasam), who is very passive and mostly mute, seems to have some mental health issues. The minority of women in this male-dominated movie are mostly background characters.

In addition to being a politician, Maamannan is a farmer. The family farm has several animals, but the farm mainly raises pigs. Rathnavelu owns a pack of hound dogs and is involved in dog racing. If one of his dogs loses a race, Rathnavelu doesn’t hesitate to viciously beat the dog to death.

During this bloated, 155-minute, trash dump movie, the feuding escalates between the two families. Maamannan is considered too elderly to get involved in most of the physical fights, so his son Veera is the one who ends up in most of the brutal conflicts with Rathnavelu. The movie tries to show how Veera and Maamannan start to mend their relationship when Veera becomes his father’s protector, but there’s so much nasty violence that Veera commits, he doesn’t look heroic at all.

Rathnavelu is the movie’s worst character, with no redeeming qualities. The acting, writing and directing in “Maamannan” are mind-numbingly terrible. “Maamannan” writer/director Selvaraj chose to film the animal death scenes in such a sadistic way, it sinks what was already a tacky movie into a permanently putrid cinematic cesspool. Disclaimers saying, “No animals were harmed while making this movie” will not convince viewers otherwise. Avoid this awful movie if you value your intelligence and your time.

Red Giant Movies released “Maamannan” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on June 30,2023.

Review: ‘Vikram’ (2022), starring Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil

July 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kamal Haasan in “Vikram” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Films)

“Vikram” (2022)

Directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India in 2019, the action film “Vikram” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: The leader of a black ops team goes on a mission to find a serial killer, who might or might not be a drug lord who is also being sought for arrest. 

Culture Audience: “Vikram” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Kamal Haasan and who don’t mind watching overly long action movies with messy stories and silly fight scenes.

Fahadh Faasil in “Vikram” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Films)

At nearly three hours long, “Vikram” overstays its welcome, as it becomes more of a convoluted mess of plot holes and increasingly far-fetched action scenes. The movie’s biggest “mystery reveal” has no real surprises. “Vikram” is just a repetitive and mind-numbing loop of double crosses and fight scenes from people who often have secret identities. At least one hour of this movie didn’t need to exist.

Written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, “Vikram” is a sequel to the 2019 action film “Kaithi” (another cops versus drug smugglers story) and is somewhat of a sequel to the 1986 movie “Vikram.” Because of all the twist and turns in the plot in the 2022 “Virkam” movie (most of these twists which are clumsily handled), there’s not much to say about the movie’s story except that it essentially revolves around three main characters:

  • Agent Amar (played by Fahadh Faasil) is an alpha male commander of the black-ops squad, which is unoriginally called the Black Squad. About five to seven men report to Agent Amar in this group. Amar has a generically overconfident personality and all the stereotypical actions of a black ops leader in a movie that’s more concerned about fight scenes and explosions than in creating characters with meaningful personalities.
  • Sandhanam (played by Vijay Sethupathi) is the leader of the Vetti Vagaiyara gang, which is involved in drug trafficking. And it goes without saying that Sandhanam is the movie’s chief villain. At least the movie made Sandhanam a colorful character with a lot of memorable quirks. Sandhanam is the middle of 24 siblings, he has three wives, and he’s described in the movie as “a bit of a psycho” and a “hardcore doper.” Sandhanam has bizarre plans to start his own government, which he wants to be funded by money he makes from drug trafficking.
  • Karnan (played by Kamal Haasan) is a mystery man who is shown murdered early in the movie, but his identity is crucial in unraveling the movie’s overly tangled mystery. Karnan’s murder is part of a series of murders committed by a roving group of masked terrorists who kidnap their victims, tie them up, and them kill them on videos that they send to law enforcement. Before each victim is murdered, one of the masked men snarls, “We declare war against your system.”

Karnan was one of three men whose murders were committed by this mysterious group of serial killers within a short period of time. The other two men were Narcotics Control Bureau official (and “Kaithi” movie character) Stephen Raj (played by Hareesh Peradi) and Narcotics Control Bureau assistant commissioner of police Prabhanjan (played by Kalidas Jayaram), who was Karnan’s adopted son. The video recordings of all three murders were also sent to law enforcement.

As far as the investigators know, Karnan was a civilian and not part of law enforcement. However, Karnan apparently had a seedy background as a drug addict, alcoholic and womanizer who frequently visited brothels. It might explain how Karnan was connected to the underground drug trade, but will that be enough information to solve these murders?

Predictably, someone in the Vetti Vagaiyara gang gets greedy and wants to betray gang leader Sandhanam. This traitor is named Veerapandian (played by Gowtham Sundararajan), who hatches a plan to team up with a member of rival gang to get a big drug shipment that has gone missing and deliver it to a mysterious crime boss named Rolex. Veerapandian’s partner in crime is Rudra Pratap (played by Aruldoss), and they both want to get the money from Rolex (played by Suriya) that would have gone directly to Sandhanam.

Amar’s supervisor is police chief Jose (played by Chemban Vinod), who has put Amar on this mission to find out who’s behind these terrorist murders. At the same time, Amar is also tasked with busting Sandhanam’s Vetti Vagaiyara gang of drug traffickers. It doesn’t take long for Amar to find out that Rudra Pratrap is the target of a murder plot.

All of this might sound like an intriguing story, but it’s handled in a sloppy and often nonsensical way. Viewers are expected to believe a lot of moronic plot twists and overlook many illogical story flaws. The last hour of “Vikram” is a steady pile-on of reveals until viewers feel like it reaches the ludicrousness of a bad soap opera. None of the acting in this movie is special or noteworthy.

As for the excessive violence in “Vikram,” it plays into the usual mindless stereotypes where the “hero” can, all by himself, take on and defeat several armed men at the same time without the “hero” getting any serous injuries. There are several heinous scenes in the movie where a toddler (played by Dharsan) is in the middle of the violence, and no one stops to get this child out of harm’s way. The baby is better off than most viewers of “Vikram” though, because the baby is blissfully unaware of “Vikram” being such a terrible movie.

Red Giant Films released “Vikram” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on June 3, 2022.

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