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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Mehandi Circus movie review: An affecting drama about love lost and found

Mehandi Circus movie review: Shweta Tripathi shines in this heart-crushing love story and you feel for her character when she says, “I didn’t know who you were till last month; now, you mean the world to me.” The Masaan girl is absolutely charming when she is not trying too hard.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by S Subhakeerthana | Chennai | Updated: April 19, 2019 4:38:54 pm
Mehandi Circus movie review Mehandi Circus movie review: Madhampatty Rangaraj invests so much conviction into every scene.

Mehandi Circus movie cast: Shweta Tripathi, Madhampatty Rangaraj, Vela Ramamoorthy
Mehandi Circus movie director: Saravanan Rajendran
Mehandi Circus movie rating: 3.5 stars

Why do majority of Tamil filmmakers remain obsessed with love stories? Let me confess: I have struggled to understand the fascination that romance holds for me, as an audience. It is a force that I can’t resist. When someone directs back-to-back love stories, we don’t complain. We enjoy them. Whereas someone makes commercial potboilers, we tend to question the pattern. I am talking about the genre. Well-told love stories never go out of fashion.

A girl from a travelling circus troupe falls in love with a guy in Kodaikanal. What happens to them eventually forms the crux of Mehandi Circus. This isn’t just the romance between Jeeva (Madhampatty Rangaraj), who runs Rajageetham Musical, an audio cassette shop and Mehandi (Shweta Tripathi)—but something sadder, something deeper. Their love story is set against a realistic core. Mehandi doesn’t speak Tamil fluently but loves Ilaiyaraaja songs. Hey, guess what? She loves Jeeva more.

In the beginning, we find Jeeva in a bar that plays old songs of the maestro. I can’t remember the last time I saw a filmmaker use songs to such effect. The moment Jeeva listens to “O Paapa Laali”, he gets reminded of Mehandi. But he doesn’t know where she is, and what she is up to.

Cut back to their past. Jeeva is desperate to impress Mehandi, who performs at the circus. He sees her; his face lights up, and he jumps down—as if the mere sight of her has brought back the spring in his step. Somehow, he wants to marry her. In the midst of all this, we get magnificent songs by Sean Roldan. While the love track is just a part of the bigger picture, the film also explores subtexts of caste, parental opposition, elopement and ‘reality’.

Commercial films don’t usually give us scenes like the one in Mehandi Circus. Jeeva doesn’t know Mehandi is actually stuck in a loveless marriage. He thinks she has moved on. But he has no resentment. He doesn’t want to disturb her. Unlike other heroes, he doesn’t want ‘revenge’. He simply feels helpless. Saravanan Rajendran weaves these simple yet honest emotions into an epic story. The tone of the film changes back and forth, and we realise love and life are two different things. There is more pain and sorrow than anger.

Also, I liked the pastor, played by Vela Ramamurthy. Such endearing supporting characters make a case for deserving films of their own.

All love stories, of course, come with cliches. As for Mehandi Circus, you don’t really mind them. Shweta Tripathi shines in this heart-crushing love story and you feel for her character when she says, “I didn’t know who you were till last month; now, you mean the world to me.” The Masaan girl is absolutely charming when she is not trying too hard.

It’s not easy to sustain an audience’s interest until the very end when you make love stories because most of our filmmakers have forgotten the art of narrating them effectively. Surprisingly, Saravanan Rajendran succeeds in his attempt.

Honestly, I realised I had underestimated the film, just like I underestimated Rangaraj. Sometimes, his expressions are plain, but there is an actor in him, who tries to invest so much conviction into every scene. Rangaraj aces in the emotional scenes though. The funny bit where he takes on a fellow drinker in the bar made me wish the film had more comedy.

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