Nenjam Marappathillai movie review: Selvaraghavan's sexual harassment film addresses everything else but

Nenjam Marappadhillai is a shallow, convenient sort of film, that can only excite those who are already entranced by the Selvaraghavan universe. For the rest of us, it is an exhausting mess.

Ranjani Krishnakumar March 05, 2021 16:18:20 IST


Ramasamy alias Ramsay is a henpecked husband of a rich man’s daughter. Despite the rags-to-riches story, he tells himself — and us — he is a broken man. And a psychopath. His wife, Swetha, is angry, suffers from some unknown ailment and either unable or uninterested in sex. His servants are, well, both servile and vile. Mariam, an orphan with noble ambitions enters this household to care for their child, Rishi. The conflict that ensues and its convoluted resolution make up the rest of the film.

For much of the first half, writer and director Selvaraghavan takes a keen effort in establishing Ramsay’s character for us. Ramsay’s overdramatic enthusiasm, insistence on speaking in English, loud mannerisms, desperate name-throwing, repeated cut-offs into imagination etc. establish the background for his psychopathy. We understand his triggers, we come to expect his responses.

SJ Suryah, who plays Ramsay, does a fantastic job of walking the thin line between relatability and full-blown psychopathy. He is a true Selvaraghavan hero, lets himself go, devoid of the slightest restraint, almost teasing those of us who think we are sane. Arvind Krishna’s cinematography accompanies him, shuddering as we do, at the theatrics.

Nenjam Marappathillai movie review Selvaraghavans sexual harassment film addresses everything else but

Still from Nenjam Marappathillai

Regina gives her honest best. As Mariam, she bears the weight of a lot in the film and she carries on valorously. Her connection with the child, Rishi, feels real and authentic. Nandita Swetha, as Ramsay’s wife Swetha, is monotone, as is the role written for her.

Apart from the earnest effort of the actors, and Yuvan Shankar Raja having his share of fun with the music, there is nothing going for Nenjam Marappadhillai. Too much time is lost in building up Ramsay — so many punch lines, incomprehensible (and sometimes misleading) visual effects, song and dance routines etc. are too much indulgence with little real meaning.

And then there is the question of rape itself. At the core of the film, there is Mariam’s gang rape that sets off supernatural events, which Selvaraghavan treats with callous arrogance. It is simply a plot twist, building up to the interval block. There is more in the film to explain Ramsay’s every action than there is about the violence against Mariam. “I will never forgive you for the rape,” says Swetha, when she finds out what her husband had done. Immediately, without stopping for breath, she adds, “but you did a good thing by killing her.”

I want to believe that Selvaraghavan wants to show us how cruel people, both men and women, can be. When those who rape and murder Mariam makes jokes about it soon after, I want to believe that Selvaraghavan is pointing out the cold-blooded malice of these men. When they all sing and dance in the police station, I want to believe that Selvaraghavan is showing us how the system does nothing to protect the victims.  When one of the servants keeps referring to Ramsay as one with a heart like MGR, I want to believe Selvaraghavan is commenting on the two-facedness of polity.

Yet, when the film ended, I felt like it was us — the audience — that he is truly mocking. In attempting a cross-genre film, he chooses the story of a creepy psychopath. He explores very many themes: good vs. evil, god vs. man, class conflict, frustrations of modern life, even love; “kaadhal” Ramsay pontificates at one point. In the end, he brings the world back to where he started, leaving us none the wiser.

Rating: 1

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