Tamil Reviews

Mehandi Circus Review: A Romance That Tries To Defy Norms But Eventually Succumbs To Tropes

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Director: Saravanan Rajendran

Cast: Madhampatty Rangaraj, Shweta Tripathi, RJ Vigneshkanth

What’s with Tamil romances that have the men resorting to offensively cozy terms of address for the women they like a minute after they meet? While some films do stick with the respectful plural, thoughtfully and consistently written into dialogues till the moment of reckoning, others swiftly lapse into more intimate expressions right during the second date, bypassing a whole relationship phase. In one of the year’s first few releases Dev, Karthi, who plays a travel and adventure junkie falls in love with a woman faster than a speeding bullet. His Lois is a self-assured entrepreneur who radiates power. And for a brief while, she seems out of reach to a love-sick Dev. But no professional and other credentials of brilliance can match the sheen of being a film’s male lead, and by that sheer virtue, the inevitable happens. Several dates in though, Karthi as Dev is still seen wrestling with terms of address, vacillating between the formal and informal – it’s almost cute to watch and one of the better moments in the film.

In Mehandi Circus, the male lead Jeeva (Madhampatty Rangaraj) pulls up his bike startlingly close to the woman he’d seen only from a distance, to address her in a way that certain filmmakers seem to consider intimate. It perhaps is – uncomfortably so. In hindsight though, it may point to a larger phenomenon: the distinct hierarchy that separates and governs the relationship between a man and a woman in Tamil cinema. It even paves way for some inadvertent humour, albeit on the darker side: In Thadam, a woman police officer played by actress Vidya Pradeep addresses a criminal in her custody – Arun Vijay (evidently, the hero) – in respectful terms even as her male colleagues don’t quite bother with it.

Mehandi Circus opens in the future: a young woman from the Northern parts of the country arrives in a Tamil village on a mission – to find her mother’s estranged lover. Much of the film is devoted to the past where the romance is set in. Some Ilaiyaraaja music and questionable methods of wooing later, Jeeva, who hails from a powerful local family, and Mehandi (Shweta Tripathi), the daughter of a travelling circus owner, fall in love – against the backdrop of Sean Roldan’s lovely score.

While Mehandi Circus at first sounds like a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pomp, show and cultural rigour that surrounds any wedding, it is, instead, an earnest attempt at a melancholic romance. Inadvertently though, it also circles back to make a commentary on the institution it deifies and projects as a culmination of any and all love. It’s this muddled thought that pervades the whole film which seems to draw heavily on Gabriel García Márquez’s novel about rediscovering and reuniting with love at twilight. Only, the character arcs, the relationships, and even the ‘twists’ in the film are too conventional, and the tale in itself lacks the nuances that comes with experiencing something as whimsical first hand, or even being acquainted with works that mirror reality. And hence, the occurrences in the film remain unimaginative recreations of what we have already seen: a couple who are torn apart by circumstances – in this case, class, caste and accompanying evils – find each other again as they near the end of their lives, neither of them shown to have experienced any pleasure whatsoever until then. Hers, a musical patchwork of Ilaiyaraaja songs tiding over an unhappy marital life and his, a drunk quest in pursuit of lost love, long beard in tow.

*****

The Mehandi Circus review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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