Comedian Vadivelu returns after a two-year hiatus with a double bonanza for his fans in Tenaliraman (Tamil), based on a popular folklore. Tenaliraman
was a jester, but with remarkable intelligence that bordered on the cunning, in the court of the Vijayanagar emperor, Krishnadevaraya.
The period of his reign was 16th century, but the Yuvaraj Dhayalan-helmed movie could have been set in the present day. For, we see the Chinese trying to take over a market in southern India. They slave drive Indian labour, and dump their own goods, pushing out the local stuff. So, Dhayalan juxtaposes history (atmosphere, costumes, bigamy) with a touch of the modern (issues, scams, poverty). Tenaliraman
Direction: Yuvaraj Dhayalan
Cast: Vadivelu, Meenakshi Dixit, Radha Ravi
Running Time: 146 minutes
Actually, Tenaliraman is a parody on India’s prevailing corruption in the government and in bureaucracy, and how men in high places, driven by selfish personal agendas, ruin the economy and the social fabric. And it takes a common man like Tenaliraman (Vadivelu) to set things right. He uses his wit and astuteness to become one of the nine gems in the royal court, ultimately rising to be the king’s (also portrayed by Vadivelu) most favourite and trusted minister.
However, the other eight gems, led by an evil courtier (Radha Ravi), are in no mood to let the Chinese or their goodies go, and they plan to overthrow the emperor – along with his 36 wives and 52 children!
Undoubtedly, a part of the film plays out with a fair amount of prudence – particularly the early sequences where Tenaliraman fools a pack of thieves out to rob the jewels in a village temple, and also where he outsmarts the courtiers in order to clinch a ministerial berth.
Beyond this, the movie sinks into crass stupidity, needlessly stretching the story. Till Tenaliraman begins to appear so laboured, with the sets looking extremely artificial. Obviously, a major part of the film must have been shot in a studio, and this clearly shows. The garishness and exaggeration cannot be missed.
Vadivelu does make an effort to look and sound different in the two roles, varying his body language – to appear dignified as the king and comical as the jester. However, the performance tends to be terribly theatrical pushing the movie to a melodramatic precipice. This is a kind of humour that can be enjoyed by Vadivelu fans. The rest may find it juvenile.