Maanagaram movie review: A gritty story and also the best film of Sundeep Kishan's career
In the first few minutes of Lokesh Kanagaraj's Maanagaram, a young man, who comes to Chennai for the first time, gets beaten up by some goons in the middle of the night. It's clearly a case of mistaken identity.
The next day, when the same guy's friend urges him to travel by bus, he gets caught up in another fight which makes him question whether it's even worth living in a city. Just like him, another middle-aged man, a cab driver, comes to the city to make a living and on the first day of his job, his life goes haywire.
There's another gang, in the same city, whose plan to kidnap a young boy goes terribly wrong. Elsewhere, on the same day, another youngster is forced to leave the city at the behest of his uncle, who's a police officer, because he's accused of a crime. One fateful night, the lives of all these characters intertwine in more ways they can imagine and it all boils down to common theme - You never know who's going to come to your rescue because, even with all the cynicism surrounding us, there's always a good samaritan around the corner.
Directed by newcomer Lokesh Kanagaraj, Maanagaram is a gritty tale about people living on the edge and how they find hope in the most unlikely places.
At some level, Maanagaram feels like a social commentary on how a city and its people, despite being strangers, suck you into their world and make you one of their own. And Lokesh drives home this point with some smartly written dialogues and well-crafted sequences that connect the lives of different characters in a mysterious manner.
Maanagaram is the kind of drama which, at its core, drives us to see the positive side of life even when all hope seems lost, although there are instances where it feels too contrived. You either accept it as a stroke of genius or a deliberate attempt to drive home the point that we are all connected to each other in some way or another. Think about it - What are the odds of six characters bumping in to each other on the same day in a metropolis like Chennai?
Soon, a pattern emerges. You begin to realise that one of the characters could encounter another character just in the nick of time before something untoward happens. There is a sense of danger to begin with, but Lokesh ensures that each subplot is soaked with a lot of hope and a positive twist in the end.
This brings us back to the primary question - Does it feel a tad too contrived? Yes, but at the same time, it also makes us empathise with all the characters. That, for the lack of the better word, is the real achievement by Lokesh and rest of the actors.
Actor Shri delivers a splendid performance as an youngster who's new to the city. His desperation, and anxiety anchors the plot right in the beginning and the actor brings plenty of intensity to the film. Then, there's Sundeep Kishan who, finally, gets a chance to live a character and do it with finesse. The way the actor delves deep into the psyche of a hot-headed youth and brings authenticity to it is quite palpable.
Maanagaram is easily one of the best films in Sundeep Kishan's career and it makes you wonder what had happened to him after a solid debut in Prasthanam several years ago. Another actor who makes you empathise a lot with his fate is Charle who plays a cab driver. Regina and Ramdoss too nail their performances.
While the film's narrative and top-notch performances by the ensemble cast are wonderful, what's even more remarkable are Selvakumar's cinematography and a stunning sound design throughout the film.
The events in the film move at a break neck speed and credit goes to the whole team for putting it together.
Maanagaram isn't a film which tries to explore the conflict between characters. In fact, it brushes this aspect of the story to make way for what it wants to achieve.
The main focus of the story is to see how far someone would go before they break down and how do they fight back once they reach that point.
In the end, although the whole plot of Maanagaram is based on a wide-range of co-incidences, it's also a film which sucks you into its world and makes you uncomfortable, angry, desperate and then, leaves you with a tinge of hope. Maybe, that's the whole point of the film.