Film: Magalir Mattum
Cast: Jyothika, Urvashi, Bhanupriya, Saranya Ponvannan, Nasser and Livingston
In Bramma’s Magalir Mattum, a heartwarming drama of self-exploration and finding the freedom within, the women hog the limelight and it’s a joy to watch them shine in their respective roles, making us root for them and embrace them as they are. In Tamil cinema, rarely do we come across strong women characters and even when we do, their roles are so short that we don’t get to invest enough time in them to even develop a connection. Thankfully, Bramma gives his women ample screen space and in fact more than expected for Jyothika, who is delightful to watch for most part.
Jyothika plays a documentary filmmaker and Urvashi plays her soon-to-be mother-in-law. They make a great team and scenes between them are a riot. Early on, we see Urvashi bid adieu to her son who leaves to Qatar on a work trip and she’s moved to tears. She says she has never been away from him. Jyothika quickly interferes and hands over a gift her son gave her. It’s a tablet and it’s meant to keep them connected.
In another scene, we are introduced to Bhanupriya, who plays the wife of a local politician in Agra. Her house is full of people but the men call the shots. Even though she is surrounded by a huge family, she feels lonely and there’s nothing she can do about it. Saranya, on the other hand, is a hardworking housewife with ambitions. She aspires to be a telemarketer. Unfortunately, she is confined to her household, attending to her ailing mother-in-law and looking after an ever drunk husband. We also get a glimpse of a few more women who spend most of their lives, as a character in the film puts it, in kitchens and taking care of their children.
Bramma makes us look at the lives of these women through the perspective of Jyothika, a well-educated feminist who believes a woman’s real freedom is not walking alone at midnight but marrying a man of her choice. Jyothika takes her mother-in-law and her friends on a road trip and it turns out to be a life-changing journey.
The road trip portion is fun but it gets tiresome in the second half. It’s needlessly stretched, and the way it’s done, paves way to a very predictable climax. But then these are minor issues, which are nothing compared to what most star-studded commercial films have to offer. The story shifts back and forth in time, oscillating between present day and late 1970s. The flashback portion, too, is stretched beyond a point.
Jyothika, in author-backed role, shines once again after 36 Vayadhinile. She plays this feisty woman who doesn’t hesitate to risk her life to save a couple from honour killing. She is extremely well complemented by Urvashi, Saranya and Bhanupriya, who are terrific and hold the film together with their fine performances. Urvashi, in particular, is undeniably good and she brings the roof down with her flawless performance.
Magalir Mattum is a much needed departure from the star-centric commercial cinema, and two thumbs up to Bramma for taking the road less traveled He’s a gutsy filmmaker and it’d be interesting to see the path he takes next.