CAST: Vijay, Samantha Akkineni, Kajal Aggarwal, Nithya Menen, SJ Suryah
Amidst all hullabaloo and uncertainty, 'Mersal' finally hits the theaters this Deepavali. The story has an age-old formulaic pattern followed from MGR period, where lookalikes swap places to avenge their detractors, with Atlee taking a contemporary issue for Vijay. Does it live up to the expectations?
'Mersal' begins with much fanfare when police Rathnavel (Sathyaraj) arrests Dr. Maaran (Vijay) for a murder and is then taken away to jail to the sounds of a weeping crowd. It’s very reminiscent of Rajinikanth’s scene in 'Sivaji.' After a few minutes, we learn that Maaran is known as ‘5 rupees doctor’ who wants to serve his people by charging just Rs 5 from his patients. It is shown that Maaran is also a powerful magician and the narration is such that it makes us believe that he is on a killing spree, only to expose the real murderer Vetri (Vijay again) during the interval block, a rather predictable ‘twist.’ And Vetri slaughters an Indian doctor in Paris on a grand stage in front of hundreds in the guise of a magic trick. Why?
Then the story goes to flashback mode again, where we are introduced to Thalapathy (Vijay) who is a village head and do-gooder in Madurai and lives happily with his wife Aishwarya (Nithya Menen in a meaty role) and little son Maaran. Now enters Daniel Arogyaraj (SJ Suryah) – a wicked and greedy doctor and all hell breaks loose for Thalapathy. Tragedy strikes when Thalapathi and his wife, who gives birth to a second child, die due to a conspiracy by cut-throat Daniel.
Now, one can connect the dots…. three decades later the sons are on the revenge mode with emphasis more on cleaning up the corruption in the medical system.
There’s nothing new by way of plot, but Atlee cleverly uses the charm and terrific screen presence of Vijay and presents it in an engaging manner. We are reminded of many revenge sagas where the hero played a triple role like 'Aboorva Sahodarargal', 'Moondru Mugam', Vijayakanth’s 'Ramanaa', where he exposes derelictions in private hospitals and how they extract huge money from the poor using their ignorance. It is Atlee’s packaging that includes keeping Vijay’s real life stance (aspiring to get into politics) that works to a great extent. 'Baahubali' writer KV Vijayendra Prasad has been credited for additional screenplay and it shows – where a newborn raises his hand akin to Baahubali’s.
It is Vijay’s show all the way and he hasn’t disappointed his fans, playing perfectly to the gallery. Among the three Vijays it is Thalapathy who impresses a lot, with his flawless comic timing. The actor also proves his mettle in emotional scenes when he breaks down at the hospital. Samantha Akkineni as Tara and Kajal Agarwal as Anu Pallavi in extended cameos are the routine dumb Tamil screen heroines, and it is a slightly plump yet pretty looking Nithya Menen who steals the show with her alluring feat. There’s nothing exceptional in SJ Suryah’s menacing act. Sathyaraj is just about adequate. Why do you need veterans like Vadivelu and Kovai Sarala for this movie? And where were all the villagers on the fateful night when Thalapathy and his pregnant wife Aishwarya struggle for their life?
On the technical front, GK Vishnu’s glossy visuals add to the grandiosity. AR Rahman pitches his best to elevate the proceedings. ‘Aalaporaan Tamizhan’ has already become a huge hit. The film is unduly lengthy (2hrs 50 min) which could have been trimmed for a slicker experience.