Mandela, the new Yogi Babu starrer directed by Madonne Ashwin, is one gem of a satire that one should not miss. What makes this movie brilliant is how it manages to blend multiple emotional shades within the framework of satire. Madonne Ashwin creates a sample space of the political scenario we see in our country. Instead of going the ambitious Shankar style of things, he cleverly conveys similar ambitions in a different tone. With the humor occasionally taking a break to make us feel certain realities, I would say Mandela should be called a smartly packaged entertainer.
Smile is our central protagonist. He and his assistant belong to the lower caste, and the people have always mistreated them. His assistant Kirudha always wanted to question this discrimination, but Smile, who was used to that abuse, never did anything. At one point, when Smile loses some of his savings, he decided to start a savings account in the Post Office, for which he had to apply for a Voter’s ID. The way his life changes after the entry of the voter’s ID card is what we get to see in Mandela.
Madonne Ashwin’s script has to be appreciated for blending so many genres into one. It begins as a satire. Then there are moments in the movie that feels as sharp as a Pariyerum Perumal. Then again, satire takes control of the narrative. Then you have this dramatic space in the movie where the oppressed hero takes some smart moves to fix things. This transition from one particular treatment to another one is super smooth in the case of Mandela. I was wondering whether the movie would end up glorifying the apolitical culture, but to my surprise, Ashwin molded the character in a way that he becomes an example/hero in a very subtle way.
Yogi Babu as the main protagonist, is so refreshing to watch. In almost all the movies I have seen featuring him, he follows a particular style as people aren’t really expecting him to be a character. Mandela offers him a different space to perform. Even when Mandela shows off in the mass moments, Yogi Babu’s approach towards the character is pretty honest. In the movie’s initial moments where his character tolerates oppression, one would really feel for that character. Mukesh, as Kirudha, managed to keep the anger in an authentic space. Sheela Rajkumar, as the educated Post Woman Thenmozhi, was also really effective. In case if her face looks familiar to you, that’s because she was the Tamil woman we saw in Kumbalangi Nights. As the fighting brothers, GM Sundar and Kanna Ravi, were fine in the film, and there are many more character actors in the movie who used the minimal space given to them very neatly.
In terms of the visual craft, we can also see Madonne Ashwin following grammar according to the treatment he applies to that particular scene. The satiric portions have these symmetric visuals and rhythmic cuts to give you a feeling that there is an element of spoof in it. But when it shifts to those caste-based issues, one can see the camera using lighting with darkness, and the character framing also shows the emotional intensity. This mixture in the treatment is what makes Mandela a compelling watch. The songs are quirky and original.
At a time when a privileged section of the society is endorsing apolitical stands, I would say Mandela makes a strong statement without being overly vocal. It shows you how oppression feels like, it shows you the significance of your vote, and it also shows you how an efficient intervention of a responsible voter can play a crucial role in running the system efficiently. And the makers have established all this with admirable minimalism.
At a time when a privileged section of the society is endorsing apolitical stands, I would say Mandela makes a strong statement without being overly vocal.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended