MMA: Was it Man Madan Ambu – or Mounting Mental Agony?

When Man Madan Ambu hit the theatres, I was among those ardent fans of Kamal Hasan’s that could hardly wait to watch it! Especially after watching a movie like Anbe Sivam, with the duo again in it (Kamal and Madhavan), my spirits soared high!

Only to come hurtling down a bottomless pit…

Yes, Man Madan Ambu fell short of expectations.
Perhaps there were several Kamal fans trying desperately to defend the movie after watching it– they said, “Hey, come on. It wasn’t that bad”, while inside they knew they were fighting a lost battle. Well, I was one of them. I was trying to defend the movie simply because Kamal Hasan was in it. (Please note the past tense).

But well, didn’t work! One has to be fair, objective – and admit that the movie was pretty pointless.

The plot in a nutshell.
Major Mannar (Kamal Hasan) is sent by Madan (Madavan) to Paris to spy on his fiancé and actress Ambujaakshi a.k.a Ambu (Trisha), whom he suspects of infidelity. Mannar reports to him from Paris that Ambu is in fact being on a real vacation with her childhood friend and not having any secret affair as he suspected. Madan thanks him but refuses to pay him, whatsoever.

He says that his job as a spy was to inform him of something wrong, something damaging. Since all was well, the spy had no job and therefore deserves no pay. Mannar has accepted this job so that he could use the money to save a friend suffering from cancer. He tries to convince Madan. He says that it was because that he did his job as a spy that Madan could know that Ambu was honest. So he has done his job. But Madan simply would not budge; he is deliberately being mean. The sheer injustice of it makes Mannar pull a stunt. He just has to have that money (it’s for a noble cause and after all he deserves it) and if it means lying to Madan that Ambu was being unfaithful, then so be it.

Now that you know the plot, let me tell you why watching the movie was mental agony.

Desperate attempt at “Crazy Mohan style” humor
Now this surprised me. MMA was essentially of the “comedy” genre. But it lacked that X factor. Comedy is not easy. It is not just in the dialogues written but also the way the actors deliver them. Timing matters a lot. As far as I have seen in Tamil, no one could execute Crazy Mohan dialogues better than Kamal Hasan. Movies such as Michael Madana Kama Rajan (MMKR) and Kaadhala Kaadhala would prove that. But then he should perhaps have stopped with executing them.

Dialogues in MMA were fine – except that in most places the humor had a strained quality. If you are a fan of Kamal’s you’ll laugh a little only for the heck of it – if you were a Kamal fan and you didn’t laugh, oooh that’d be sad for your hero.

Otherwise one would not bother– the dialogues were intended to make people laugh but they were mostly sarcastic and the result is an awkward polite laugh from the dutiful fan who would feel guilty otherwise!

Was it Major Mannar – or Kamal Hasan – on camera?
I felt that a bit – no not a bit – a LOT of ‘Kamal Hassan’ came across as Major Mannar. At some point Mannar becomes Kamal Hassan and starts talking philosophy and expressing his contempt for people. You go like “Wait a minute, does the story call for all this?”

It was more like the entire movie was just an excuse for Kamal to convey what he thought of people in general – through the character of Mannar. The thin line that separates Kamal from Mannar fades and you are left in a daze.

How dialogues were a force fit
Dialogues like “Tamil ini mella saagum nu summava sonnan” etc are well, quite true. We have seen that in Pancha Thanthiram already. (And digs at Nithyanadha are getting old – give that guy a break!) So, yup many dialogues were a force fit.

There’s something else about the dialogues
Now how do we make a conversation? You say something. I acknowledge it and then say my point. You say, “How are you?” and I say “I am fine and you?” or something like that. There is continuity. There is a connecting link between the dialogues.

Now how would this look?
You ask me “How are you” and I say, “I am fine, thank you; fine is a four letter word. ‘Fine’ also means ‘penalty’. Fine could mean a lot of things in different contexts. It depends on how you use it….”

Wouldn’t you think I was a little crazy? You only asked how I was. And I give you a lecture on the word “fine”. It is true that fine means penalty and the meaning differs with the context, blah blah blah! But the situation never called for it!

Several dialogues in the movie were like that – a force fit. Especially a few instances when Kamal is on the phone with Madhavan, he rattles on and on – and Madhavan just moves on to the next dialogue… No acknowledgement whatsoever. At least none that I could find!

Yup, so dialogues were completely a force fit. Yet, the dutiful ‘Kamal fan’ can put up with this, after all what he says is all true – it’s just this particular story did not need it.

Now here’s something even the “dutiful Kamal fan” CANNOT put up with!
That’s the ‘mental agony’ part. The climax.
It was almost as if they were struggling to figure out a fitting climax and could come up with none – so they resorted to the typical Crazy Mohan style – confusion in the end.

At least in movies like MMKR and Kaadhala Kaadhala, the confusion and mess was justified. It was called for and it was funny. Like one of my friends pointed out, the characters in the movie might be confused, but amidst all the chaos, the audience would be able to understand every thing that was going on!

But here in MMA, the characters are not alone – watching it, even you would be confused. The story first of all did not call for such a chaos and I wonder if the film crew and the actors understood what was going on themselves.

So yup, trying to figure out what is going on in the climax could give you a migraine.
Not even the dutiful Kamal fan can put up with one!

Did the movie have any good aspects at all?
Well, yup there were good aspects.
The timing of every song was perfect. Be it “Who’s the hero” or “Thagudu thatham” or “Neela Vaanam” the timing could not have been better!

Madhavan did his part well. Though most of his part involved talking in a drunken stupor, he did it quite well…

The Kamal Kavidhai was actually good
Sarcastic, yes, but good. Now there are several people who objected. They said that this guy is an atheist and that the lyrics were offensive. Well, I see worse things in other movies. What about “Meow Meow Poona” from Kandhasamy? Isn’t that offensive? The lyrics are plain vulgar. “Daddy Mummy Veetil Illa” Oh great lyrics. Yet these are songs that we hear being played everywhere. The damage this causes for all practical purposes is more than what Kamal Kavidhai could do to religion and faith.

To be honest, I have found, on several occasions, men drunk to the bones and lying on the roads – wearing the “Ayyapan Maalai” which is supposed to be sacred. No one objects to these. Yet, let Kamal Hasan talk about something and they all raise their eyebrows and are prepared to attack the man! Personally, I found the Kamal Kavidhai sarcastic it was quality sarcasm.

Sangeetha and Trisha gave what their roles demanded of them – not less, not more. It was just “fitting”.

Finally…to conclude
Phew! That was pretty long!
If you have reached this far, well, I think the point is driven home! You can watch MMA, if you haven’t already! But don’t tell me I did not warn you of the other thing the movie could mean – the Mounting Mental Agony – especially towards the end!

P.S: I am one of Mr.Kamal Hasan’s greatest fans and he is this perfectionist I admire! I cannot even begin to talk about his acting skills. But this is way too much even for me!


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