There is an appreciable intent behind the Jyothika starrer Ponmagal Vandhal directed by J J Fredrick. This social preach disguised as a thriller is actually weak when you try to look at it as a thriller. As a one-liner, there are enough elements here to excite anyone as almost everything we see in that trailer is like a flashback we see in the first five minutes of the movie. But the movie overly relies on its “message-oriented” formula which obviously reduces its cinematic appeal.
In 2004, there was a case about a woman who was allegedly a serial killer who killed a lot of minors along with two men. The woman known as Psycho Jyoti was killed in an encounter and the case was closed. The story we get to see in Ponmagal Vandhal is about what happens when a lawyer named Venba reopens this case defending the late Jyothi.
During the promotion of the movie, both Jyothika and Suriya were talking about the unsafe lives of children in our society and it was that awareness that made them produce this movie. By the time you finish watching Ponmagal Vandhal, you will not feel that they just exploited a relevant theme to make some money. The problem I had with the film was in the scripting mostly. Director J J Fredrick who has also written the film is struggling to make this a guessing game. In Sethurama Iyer CBI, when Kalabhavan Mani’s Ishow Alex challenges Iyer by saying that one murder was not committed by him, the movie generates a curiosity inside the viewers. Ponmagal Vandhal has a similar element in the story when we see Venba’s character trying to defend a dead person who was proven to have killed too many innocent lives. But the movie spends less time to stay in that suspense zone and that inclination of the movie to focus more on the mental trauma verbally explained by the leading lady makes it look just okay on screen.
Jyothika has enough material here to enjoy the process of acting. The character she plays has stubborn and vulnerable phases and when you look at the whole intent factor, there isn’t a better option in Tamil right now other than her. R Parthiban as the advocate Rajarathinam plays his character with ease and I won’t say the character was a challenge for him as an actor. Actor Thiagarajan as Varadharajan doesn’t have much consistency in being that intimidating antagonist who is adamant about the respect he receives. K Bhagyaraj plays the role of Venba’s father and mentor Petition Pethuraj.
J J Fredrick in his first movie is trying to make it exciting for the viewer. But like I already said, the script has no real interest in exploring the story as a thriller that will keep us guessing. The twists are kind of visible from a distance and even though some of them later got tweaks, they lacked that wow factor. In one sequence Frederick has used the mannequin challenge to make the scene more visually appealing. I still don’t understand why it was necessary to shoot that sequence in that particular way. Maybe they wanted us to give more attention to the character played by Parthiban. The subplot featuring the judge played by Prathap Pothen felt irrelevant. The cinematography by Ramji has this rich green feel with saturated colors that at times made the film look too glossy. Govind Vasantha’s tracks are in sync with the narrative.
Sexual harassment against children is indeed a topic that needs to be addressed in an influential media like cinema and that “making people aware” part of Ponmagal Vandhal is absolutely fine. It’s just that when you look at it as a thriller, the script doesn’t have that excitement to hit you hard. With the entire two hours getting invested in the main plot without any lame comedy scenes or unwanted songs, I would say Ponmagal Vandhal is a watchable drama.
The “making people aware” part of Ponmagal Vandhal is absolutely fine. It’s just that when you look at it as a thriller, the script doesn’t have that excitement to hit you hard.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended