Darbuka Siva’s debut effort Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is what’s being called a ‘slice of life’ film. The problem with that is, of course, most of our lives are horribly boring and only amusing to ourselves. This film is no different.
So, Siva uses Tamil cinema’s most abused technique: Nostalgia. Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee begins at a school, where a group of boys scour the notice board for names of girls who are joining their class, so they can ‘love’ them. Vinod (Kishen Das) is already seeing someone. Through the course of the next two hours and twenty-eight minutes, we see their ordinary lives play out in painstaking detail.
We see roll calls, sports days, farewell parties, fashion shows — the dullest events written and shot in a mundane manner. Perhaps in an effort to make a feel-good film, Siva eliminates all and any narrative tension. Take this scene, for instance. This group of boys bring porn to one of their houses when the mother walks in. She catches her son, hits him cursorily, and we abruptly cut to the next scene. There is no tension, no conflict, no mention of it ever again. We are expected to accept it as a half-joke half-normal incident. If that is so, what makes it worthy of watching it at all?
Just around the mid-way mark, a Cupid shows up. And then the second half seems to be some sort of crystal gazing, where everyone is miserable. This part is also predictable and plain. There is a scene at a party — a school reunion, rather unimaginatively — that’s never-ending. It includes a few new characters — spouses and the like — but the film does nothing with them. A passing joke here and there at best.
If there is one thing you can’t blame Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee for, it is the diversity of characters. There are people from various religions, a gay man, a woman in love with a married man, a man going through a divorce, a musician, an insurance salesman, a doctor — Siva covers the gamut. He makes the effort to show us that there are all kinds of lives people are leading. But none of them stays with us once the film is over. They are a little short of caricatures, little to root for.
To fill the gaps in storytelling, Darbuka Siva brings what he does best — music. His background score lacks variety but is effective. Especially in scenes like the climax, where he saves us the misery of inane dialogue with some good old strumming.
But having our witless lives play out in front of us for two and a half hours is hardly good cinema, even with good music. Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is proof that there is a limit to nostalgic value too.