July 12, 2023
by Carla Hay
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.
“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.