Chandramukhi 2 review: Enna koduma Saravanan, ithu?
Chandramukhi 2 (Tamil)(1 / 5)
In Fazil’s Malayalam psychological thriller Manichitrathazhu (1993), a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) roams an ancient mansion in grand clothes and makeup, believing herself to be a vengeful dancer from the past. In the sequel to the film’s Tamil remake, Chandramukhi 2, it’s difficult to decide who is now “possessed” because all the women are dressed like they’re on the sets of a Saravana Stores ad shoot 24X7.
Nobody has milked the Malayalam original as much as director P Vasu. Not only did he make two remakes (Tamil and Kannada), but he also directed a spin-off Kannada film and its Telugu remake after that. Chandramukhi 2, therefore, is the fifth time that Vasu has invoked Chandramukhi.
The 2005 Tamil remake had Rajinikanth in dual roles. Its 2023 sequel has Raghava Lawrence playing Rajinikanth in dual roles. Going by this yardstick, everyone knew that this was going to be a low-budget Chandramukhi, but when Kangana Ranaut is flinging CGI Great Danes in the climax, you have to wonder just how low the budget really was. Why write a scene like that in the first place when you know the dogs are going to end up looking like misshapen chapatis? Or for that matter, why have owls, snakes, and black panthers in the film when they don’t look like owls, snakes, and black panthers?
Chandramukhi 2 is about a rich family that has faced a lot of tragedy. The matriarch, Ranganayaki (Radhikaa Sarathkumar), consults with their guruji (Rao Ramesh) on what they have to do to turn their lives around. Guruji has problems of his own – of all the characters who wear wigs, his wig is the worst. But this is an unintentional subplot.
Guruji tells the family they must do a puja in their kula daivam’s temple. The family doesn’t even know that they have a kula daivam. That’s guruji’s AHA! moment. “This is why y’all are suffering so much,” he says. So, the family bundles itself up into fancy cars and decides to stay in an ancient mansion in the village of their kula daivam. Guruji’s excellent advice ensures that they now have a ghost to deal with, in addition to their existing problems.
The conflict in Manichitrathazhu was that a loving wife develops murderous intentions towards her husband when she switches identities. In Chandramukhi, Vasu changed this to a conflict between the wife and the husband’s friend to cater to Rajinikanth’s fanbase. In the sequel, the conflict is watered down further – the conflict is between two characters who hardly know each other. There is no atmospheric tension or suspense. We already know Chandramukhi’s story, and the additional details only make the runtime longer than it needs to be.
The film unfolds in TV serial fashion with close-ups, reaction shots, and melodramatic dialogues while riding heavily on MM Keeravani’s nostalgia-inducing score. Vadivelu reprises his role as Murugesan from Chandramukhi, and even Vaigai Puyal’s comedy seems strained. This is because he is unsupported in the scenes – neither the writing nor Raghava Lawrence’s performance match up – and apart from a chuckle here and a chuckle there, the comedy barely works.
You don’t go looking for logic in a film like this, but you have to wonder why the milkman’s daughter (Mahima Nambiar) is allowed to walk around the house at midnight or why Raghava Lawrence plays Vettayan’s spirit and Pandian in the present when Chandramukhi’s spirit and its contemporary version are played by two different actors. Another source of mystery is why the child actors in the film are always saying “YAY YAY!”. What could be the reason behind such unabating enthusiasm in a haunted house?
Kangana Ranaut struggles with classical dance, and if you’ve watched the peerless Shobana in Manichitrathazhu, the performance comes off as a travesty. Mithun Shyam, who plays Chandramukhi’s lover, might be a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, but he neither has the screen presence nor the acting chops to strike good chemistry with Kangana. The romance between them falls flat though Kangana tries to pull it off. The actor is far better at action even if you can clearly see where the ropes have been erased in most of the film’s stunt sequences. Lakshmi Menon is under-utilised but convincing, putting her expressive eyes to good use. The rest of the cast ham their way through, and all the makeup in the world cannot hide it.
The legendary dancer has had her vengeance multiple times now in Vasu’s movies. It’s time to lay her to rest and for Vasu to find new ideas. Surely, Chandramukhi (rather, the original Nagavalli) doesn’t deserve to turn into a meme. By the time the film crawls to an end, you only have one thing to say – Enna koduma Saravanan, ithu?