Director: M Rajesh
Director Rajesh’s films are like those Russian dolls of decreasing size, each placed inside the other until you have just the one doll with all the others rattling inside it. Vannakkamda Mappilei is not a single film. It has plot points in it from Siva Manasula Sakthi, Boss Engira Bhaskaran, and OKOK mashed up together. It’s as if merely casting different actors for the roles of Rajesh Hero, Rajesh Hero’s Friend, Rajesh Heroine, Rajesh Hero’s Mother, and Rajesh Hero’s Comical Antagonist would make it an entirely new film. Rajesh hopes to build a body of work that elevates cut-and-paste to an artform.
Aravind (GV Prakash Kumar) is a marine engineer on leave, but he could also have just been Siva from SMS. Thulasi (Amritha Aiyer) is Nayanthara from Boss. Swaminathan (Daniel Annie Pope) is Santhanam from all Rajesh films, but especially OKOK where his romantic plans are constantly thwarted by that film’s Rajesh Hero. Between the three, they enact hilarious sequences from Rajesh’s earlier films; this is old wine in an old bottle handed out by a different hand.
The one-line of the story — and also the entire story — is that Aravind and Swami decide to get married on the same day, but something or the other happens to ruin it. Swami wants to marry his mama ponnu (and there’s even an appalling sequence mocking him and his daughters). Aravind likes Thulasi, who wants her widowed father, Ramachandran (Anandaraj), to find someone before she gets married. Briefly, the film enters a fun Galatta Kalyanam zone, where in order for one person to get married, he has to set up alliances for several others. But Rajesh trades this opportunity for a chance to write more jokes of dubious taste featuring Ramachandran and a yoga teacher.
It’s moot to comment on the film’s misogyny when it celebrates it. There’s a job interview featuring Thulasi where she’s made to do ridiculous, and demeaning, things by Swami. You hear gems like ‘reason kadhacha pasanga ponnungala kaiti uduvaanga, season maarnaaley ponnunga kaiti uduvaanga (men breakup with a reason, women breakup with changing seasons)’, but you also get scenes where Aravind defends his mother when his father mistreats her. Somehow, it’s okay to be petty and vindictive to your girlfriend, but not to your wife, only because she is a mother and deserves respect. The film awkwardly justifies its misogyny with a weak defense of mothers.
But there’s a stretch near the end where we see a family drama between Aravind and his parents. This is the film’s most impressive part, though it’s too cute to be moving. But in a film that’s mostly inane alliterations like ‘kaalam pona gangaaru’, it has dignity. Either because we’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome in two hours or because the story finally gets going, the last thirty minutes are genuinely amusing, and you begin to think: maybe, this isn’t such a bad film after all, until it ends with an unforgivable slight on single mothers, all for an unnecessary comic twist.
Imagine all the good fun Rajesh can whip up, if only he was not so obsessed with soup boys and rich girls. But if you find it amusing that the hero and his friend are called Aravind and Swami, then Vannakkamda Mappilei is your fix.