Cast: Cheran, Sukanya, Umapathy Ramaiah, Kavya Suresh, Thambi Ramaiah, MS Bhaskar
There are two fascinating characters in Cheran's Thirumanam… Sila Thiruthangaludan (Wedding… with few corrections), and they're not the bride and the groom. I'm talking about the bride's brother, Arivudainambi (Cheran), and the groom's sister, Manonmani (Sukanya). They're both of a certain age. They've seen a lot of life, carry a lot of baggage. And they're both unattached. Their story might have made a much better movie, but sadly, we are stuck with their bland younger siblings: Mahesh (Umapathy Ramaiah) and Aadhira (Kavya Suresh), who fall in love and tell their families they want to get married. The surprise is that no one opposes. What creates the drama, then, is the opposition in their families' views about a big, fat, Indian wedding. Manonmani is from a "jameen kudumbam," and she wants the works. Arivudainambi is a humble IT officer. He finds her demands, um, taxing.
This isn't a bad premise, but Cheran loses the plot very early on. At every stage of the wedding preparation – fixing the venue, choosing the invitation, buying clothes – Arivudainambi gives a running commentary about how wasteful it all is. Cheran seems to think that no one, today, has thought about any of this, and we need a movie to open our eyes. All of this "wisdom" comes in form of data dumps. People just stop in their tracks and talk. A lawyer holds forth about how problems in couples today arise from needing space and sexual incompatibility and how there are no joint families anymore to make the newlyweds adjust to one another (conveniently forgetting that joint families come with their own set of problems). She's apparently speaking to Arivudainambi. She's really speaking to the audience. She's giving a Message™.
Even if you are one of those who wants messages from movies, you'll have to agree that they have to be tucked away elegantly and not thrust in your face. Thirumanam feels like a very long Pongal-special patti mandram interspersed with reaction shots from a mega serial. The acting and staging are really that bad. I kept thinking about how Visu would have handled this subject. He'd have titled it Thirumanam Adhu Narumanam, and gone for a full-throttle comedy-drama mix that would have removed every trace of the deadly earnestness we find here. Mahesh and Aadhira actually look like they belong in the Visu era. They're nice, without a shred of personality – they make Kamala Kamesh seem like a biker rebel chick. It's hard to believe they are a modern couple.
Cheran, though, tries to compensate. He tries to be "modern". He has emojis float across the screen when Mahesh and Aadhira are chatting. He includes a scene with a Facebook friends meet-up. He has a character appear in thought bubbles. He stages the scene where Mahesh and Aadhira tell their folks (about each other) like a Broadway-style number, where people alternately sing and speak in tune. But nothing works. Everything feels horribly fake, because we also get the Sivaji Ganesan-era scene where Mahesh receives a message from Aadhira and his heart soars and we cut to a flock of birds taking flight. We get characters mumbling "Indha driver yean innum kaanom!"-type lines, so we know what they are thinking. As the second half veered off into weird tangents about organic farming and a corruption scandal, I felt very sorry for Cheran. He seems to be a good man, which, unfortunately, is no guarantee for good cinema.