Director: Ramesh Aravind
Cast: Kamal Haasan, K.Balachander, K.Vishwanath, Nasser, Pooja Kumar, Andrea
Ratings: Two and a half stars
Actor Kamal Haasan and filmmaker Kamal Haasan have combined to deliver several classics in the past. Expectations run sky-high when the two come together again after a gap of two years. Interestingly Kamal’s mentor K Balachander's last acting venture was Uttama Villain. Does the movie live up to expectations? The answer is partially yes.
The film is about the life of a superstar with and without a mask. A picture in picture, the movie revolves around a commercially hit hero Manoranjan (Kamal Haasan). He is adored and admired by all. But he has a private life too. Apparently, when kingmaker producer Poorna Chandra Rao (K.Vishwanath) makes Manoranjan a superstar after pulling him out his mentor Margadarasi (K.Balachander) who is known for smalltime films, Mano is forced to marry Rao’s daughter Varalakshmi (Urvashi).
Meanwhile there is Dr Arpana (Andrea). She takes care of Manoranjan, who suffers from frequent headaches. All hell breaks loose when Arpana comes to know that Manoranjan suffers from brain tumor. There begins the story. Now he has a last wish. He wants to go back to his mentor and do a film. He sheds his ego and calls on Margadarsi to do a movie. Though he turns down Mano’s offer initially, touched by his health condition, the director decides to do one film. There begins the movie with in a movie. The 8th century episodes unfold where Kamal plays innocent Uttaman with Nasser as King Muthrasan giving him extraordinary support in comic timing.
In the meantime, through one Jacob Zachariah (Jayaram), a startling revelation about Manoranjan’s past is brought to light. That Mano has a daughter Manonmani (Parvathy Menon) through his past lover Yamini. The story takes twist and turn and eventually ends in an unexpected note. Combining Theyyam, an ancient dance form of Kerala and Tamil folk music Villupattu adds new sheen to the film. But the eighth century episodes seem to be a mismatch. Somewhere it lacks the pep and punch one would associate with a Kamal film. Though some of the scenes which are individually engaging especially the conversations between KB and Kamal, the first half moves at a leisurely pace testing one’s patience. Thankfully, post interval it picks up momentum.
It is undoubtedly a Kamal show all the way! The actor sparkles in both the roles – an ego bloated Manoranjan and a simple Uttaman. Streaks of Kamal’s acting are seen in the entire supporting cast like Pooja Kumar, Andrea, MS Bhaskar etc. The emotional bonding between Kamal his wife Urvashi, son and daughter are noteworthy.
Madhu Sudhanan's visual effects and Shamdat's camera are flesh and blood for the movie. Ghibran's handling of background score is all the more gripping. Lalgudi sets warrant mention.
There are few shortcomings. Nevertheless Kamals’ amazing screen presence pulls an otherwise bit dragging film with a runtime of 2hrs 52 minutes. The film can be enjoyed only in parts.