Debutante director Vijesh Vijay’s Mandharam is a film that can’t build the foundation for something better. The attempt is there to give subtle layers of mutual understanding in romance and the other fundamentals of a romantic equation. But the initial story is so generic that you won’t feel the need for the story to be so intellectual and deep.
So Rajesh is our hero. He falls in love with a girl named Charu, during the last year of his BTech. The relationship grows and after a point, the involvement of the family makes it difficult for the couple. How the developments affect Rajesh and how his life changes after that are the story of Mandharam.
The film is narrated linearly. And we have a hero who is an artist and wasn’t interested in love at all after a setback he faced during his younger days. As usual, he sees a girl and things go slow motion and the meetings and misunderstandings are eventually ending up in the romantic scenario. This phase of the movie is passable due to the humor in the narrative, largely dependent on the friends of Rajesh. Because the movie couldn’t establish the love story in a rooted way, the second half shift that reminded me of Imtiaz Ali films of self-exploration, just couldn’t take off. The movie becomes unnecessarily philosophical and it was a dragging experience without an impact. Lag can be used to create depth, but here it was more like wasting time.
Asif Ali is in his usual avatar and this character is one more to the list of aimless arrogant youths he has portrayed. While he was fine in all the other scenes, the scene where he calls his father and breaks down was performed poorly. Varsha Bollama gives a better performance when compared to her first Malayalam outing Kalyanam. Arjun Ashokan, Vineeth Vishwam and Jacob Gregory play the role of the friends and they were all just okay. Anarkali Marikkar lacked the grace to be Devika and I really didn’t like Raveena Ravi’s dubbing for her character. Ganesh Kumar, Nandini, etc are there in the supporting cast.
Vijesh Vijay’s making has that ambition to make this feel like a story of a deeply wounded emotional soul. But to build that emotion, he has used a foundation that’s quite brittle. Sajas, the writer tries to add grace to characters through dialogues and I found the opinion shifting of the movie quite baffling. The debate that happens within the movie whether it’s okay to love someone without the consent of your family is getting played without a proper stand. The writing becomes more troublesome in the second half where it lingers on certain aspects for way too long. The frames are impressive and so were almost all the songs including the reprised version of old ones. It almost felt like departments of music and cinematography tried their best to bring a feeling that was just not there in the script.
Mandharam lacks a good foundation. Imtiaz Ali built a rockstar by showing the harshest of realities Jordan had to face. Rajesh’s pain fails to reach the hearts of the viewers and looking at the way this movie approaches the hero’s trauma, you can’t blame if anyone says Rajesh overreacted.
Rajesh's pain fails to reach the hearts of the viewers and looking at the way this movie approaches the hero’s trauma, you can't blame if anyone says Rajesh overreacted.