While the industry's veteran directors are still stuck doing the same kind of films with half-baked screenplays and barely there plots, dangling popular stars as bait for audiences, there is a younger crop which makes a brand of cinema that shows a lot more investment in the craft.
Debut director Athiroopan's Mupparimanam is a gripping film which keeps you guessing for a good part of it. Though the director shows promise in his storytelling, the film is unfortunately mired in misogyny and exhibits a juvenile understanding of love and relationships that is disappointing, especially since it comes from a young filmmaker.
Shanthnu Bhagyaraj plays Kadhir, a young man deeply in love with his childhood playmate Anu (Srushti Dange) from whom he is separated because of circumstances. He even gives up his dream to study in the US so he can be with her when they meet later.
Athiroopan cleverly uses honour killings in the backdrop to serve as a distraction from what the actual storyline is. So, while we are led to believe that Anu's murattu family, that thinks nothing of murdering their own blood for the sake of honour, is the biggest obstacle in the relationship, we're in for a surprise.
However, this twist in plot, while unexpected, is quite problematic. It's refreshing to have a female villain in a film, especially one who is given sufficient screen time and is not vilified through her attire (Rudhra from Kodi was another rare example) but it's Mupparimanam's positioning of love and relationships that leaves one troubled. All the more so since the filmmaker gives in to the temptation of making a "message" out of it towards the end.
"Think well before you fall in love. But once you commit, don't break up because there's another person involved in the relationship," a dying male character advises the audience, particularly the female section of it. This, after he has abducted a woman who cruelly jilted him for another man right from her wedding and threatens to kill her in a secluded spot.
We're given a suitable sob story to justify this behaviour - the young man does drugs, loses his mother and so on. But really, even if a person is in a relationship with an absolute gold-digger or someone who is terrible in every which way, does it give him the right to use violence against her? No matter how "sincere" he was in his love (in this instance, he dies and even his blood creeps towards the woman because that's just how "sincere" he is...a literal illustration of 'creepy').
The problem is not with creating such a character itself but with glorifying him rather than recognising his actions as psychopathic and unacceptable, no matter how the relationship ended. A few scenes before this gory end, we have another female character giving the example of a pretty woman who says yes to Kadhir's friend (Appukutty) despite his unimpressive looks only because he was so "sincere" in his love.
This enormously toxic understanding of love as unchanging persistence is Kollywood's favourite male-centric fantasy and Mupparimanam sadly falls in line. What a wasted opportunity.
The lead pair as well as the supporting cast deliver convincing performances. The 'Let's Go Party' number which has an array of stars including the Bhagyaraj family and Jackie Shroff (!) appearing in cameo is enjoyable. Mupparimanam is an interesting film but this new director will do well to rid himself of old ideas that Kollywood has been selling for way too long and begin afresh.