Directors: P Vasu, Mahendran
Writer: P Vasu
Cast: Raghava Lawrence, Kangana Ranaut, Aathmika, Srushti Dange, Vadivelu
Duration: 171 minutes
Available in: Theatres
When P Vasu’s Chandramukhi was released in 2005, we all knew that the Tamil remake wasn’t going to be as restrained as Fazil’s Manichitrathazhu, a magnificent slow-burn horror piece. Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi had all the fluff that a mass big-star film would ideally have. But amidst all the pomp, Vasu still treated its horror with a light hand. Even as we saw Jyotika’s Chandramukhi dance in its chilling last act, the horror that washed over us wasn’t from her unkempt hair or lipstick. Was she at all possessed? Or was she possessed by her illness? Our imagination was what made Chandramukhi either a feminist Kannagi-esque heroine of modern times or a plain old ghost of our nightmares. The Chandramukhi of Kangana and Raghava’s sequel is neither. P Vasu has taken Tamil cinema’s most complicated ghost and has made her…boring.
The sequel picks up a few years after Ganga was rid of the ghost of her mind. The Vettaiyan palace now has a new owner (Vadivelu’s Murugesan) and newer residents. Radhika’s wealthy family of countless people — whom the film doesn’t even deem fit enough for proper introductions — temporarily moves into the house to be near their ancestral temple and break an age-old curse. Their family includes two orphaned children and their godfather (Raghava in a role that asks him to say lines like “En peru Pandian, Naa ivangaluku guardian”). Saving children from burning buses and uniting families with a dialogue on religious acrimony are part of his babysitting duties. When they eventually find out that the temple is strangely connected to the spirit roaming the house’s southernmost corridors, Pandian decides to save the house.
Apart from its title card and Keeravani’s accompanying haunting note, nothing about the sequel reminds us of the collective horror we felt 15 years ago. And P Vasu tries his best to milk the best of his original work. So, we get scenes of Vadivelu getting creamed by Raghava, in an effort to remind us of Murugesan and Saravanan’s twisted camaraderie. The iconic painter Gopal-u gets a face. Some moments are framed exactly like the original — the tiny trio of windows that showed Saravanan, Senthil and Viswanathan, the true face of Ganga, returns. But we see these throwaway nuggets for what they are — painful lip service.
But the biggest problem with the film is neither its painfully cheesy cheap thrills nor its eardrum-bursting music. It’s this strange sense of laziness that drives the film’s MacGuffin. We have two spirits instead of one in the sequel, but this is the story we already know. Kangana Ranaut tries her best to lend heft to a complicated role which is underwritten to an extent that we didn’t know was possible. If Jyotika’s Chandramukhi left us thinking about her visceral strength and undying sense of spirit, all Ranaut’s Chandramukhi gives us is an innocent beauty. So, the Chandramukhi here is reduced to being a dainty flower whose sole purpose is to turn men against each other with her lure. At one point a spirit locks its head with a bunch of ridiculous-looking VFX mongrels. The said spirit also dances with maniacal eyes and smudged kohl, letting the chuckles flow. But even amidst the pool of this absurdity, the one thing that still remains its biggest debacle is its treatment of Chandramukhi, which slowly chips away at the version in our heads. Fleeting moments of Ganga’s descent into madness make it part of the sequel’s flashback portions and for only that we’re thankful.