When a blockbuster, star-studded, high-octane film is called Mersal, you don’t review it. You let yourself get carried along with the rest of the world. The Madras Tamil word Mersal has many meanings, one of which is shaken. Stunned perhaps is more apt. A state where things have happened to you, when things are not in your hands.
Watching Mersal, I felt that. I was taken up, shaken and stirred, till I was but just one more element in the cocktail of mass adulation served to a superstar.
Mersal stars Vijay, Vijay, Vijay, Nithya Menen, Kovai Sarala, Samantha, Kajal Aggarwal, Vadivelu, SJ Suryah, Sathyaraj, and others. The film is written and directed by Atlee, and produced by Thenandal Films. Music is by A.R Rahman but really, no one need have even bothered. There was enough drums and whistles from the stands.
Mersal is a masala, mass film. In that it follows a strict code of scripting. There needs to be enough moments to allow the hero to punch, maim, kill, and mortally wound henchmen and evil villains, there needs to be a few songs that allow the hero’s softer, romantic side to shine through, there needs to be a kuthu song to let the hero’s body pull off complicated dance moves, there needs to be family and sentiments and a personal sacrifice – usually for the mother or a sister, but occasionally for a brother or a father. A masala film that follows the Shakespearean three-act structure – a nice set up that builds up excitement, a good conflict, and a final last minute resolution of all the hanging threads.
In recent times, the best masala film I’d seen was Motta Siva Ketta Siva. A film made by and for Raghava Lawrence. It hit every register of the masala genre, and was entertaining to watch. And carried off a few surprises.
Mersal has managed to pull that off as well, and packed in enough punch lines and hero moments to allow Vijay to build up his public persona even more.
Mersal – on paper at least – is a film about medical malpractices and corrupt doctors who run hospitals as money making centres. At least, that is what Vijay says at the end. But on-screen, what we see is a Vijay who is larger than life and beats up baddies every five minutes, and impresses his faithful. In a classic Tamil cinema setup – Kamal Haasan’s Apoorva Sagodharargal comes to mind – a do-gooder father is killed by the main villain. However, to exact revenge are two sons – nearly twins – who each grow up separated from each other. One of the brothers knows the family secret, the other doesn’t. And so we go into conflict and resolution. Both brothers unite, and together avenge their father’s death. Along the way, both brothers find girlfriends each, sing songs, make love, and do what Tamil cinema’s heroes have done since time immemorial: Pander to their own fan clubs.
This is such a dry recounting of an event that is several times louder, juicier, more exciting. The cinema hall I saw Mersal in, one of those large, old-fashioned, single-screen affairs, fans began streaming in 40 minutes before scheduled start. Confetti, flowers, fireworks, and extraordinary lung capacity at the ready. Opening titles rolled on, and people were still streaming in. Whistles rend the air, flowers flew all over, screams of “Thalapathy” rang loud and clear and we still hadn’t seen the hero.
From the first frame onwards when Vijay enters, till nearly the end of the film, one could only hear the manic screamings of the fans. Even drowning out the lines spoken by their idol. This is particularly difficult because Vijay the actor tends to mumble through his lines.
But it didn’t matter. Not for me at least. I was part of the frenzy. Things were truly, mersal!
There are four great actresses in the film. Kovai Sarala, Nithya Menen, Samantha, Kajal Aggarwal. However, they have a combined total of about 25 percent of screen time. Nithya Menen especially does the most with hers. SJ Suryah as the villain again does the best. He minces around, throws his weight and attitude, and growls. There is a brief moment where he dominates the scene, getting even the hero to shut up.
Sathyaraj as a police inspector is initially set up as this powerful man who gets what he wants, but that lasts for five minutes maybe. Then Sathyaraj becomes the explainer-sidekick-prop for the hero.
All this, again, didn’t matter. Because Vijay was on-screen, and when there’s a hero as big as Vijay, nobody else needs do anything.
Not even A.R Rahman, whose music for the film must count as one of his least inspiring ones.
As a film, Mersal does what it sets out to do, entertain the audience, and make Deepavali a festival if not of lights, at least of sounds.
The Mersal 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.