Cast: Kamal Hassan, Madhavan and Trisha
Director: K.S. Ravikumar
Kamal Hassan is one of India’s finest actors, easily among the world’s greatest. A method actor of immense calibre, Hassan has given some extraordinary performances. And the urge to excel was evident even when he was a baby of six. In Kalathur Kannamma, as the son of the characters played by Gemini Ganesan and Savithri, he was arresting, and toddled away with the Filmfare Award for the Best Child Artist.
Hassan’s latest, Manmadan Ambu, directed by K.S. Ravikumar, lifts the actor’s sinking reputation of having been part of eminently forgettable films, like Hey Ram and Dasavathaaram. Yet, one does notice in Manmadan Ambu a trace of desperation in him to get the crowds back: look at the way he throws a mobile telephone in the air and nets it in his trouser pocket – a la Rajnikanth, with the instrument replacing the cigarette.
Manmadan Ambu is interesting in a way, for we see a Hassan who allows his own script to give the right kind of space to the other actors,
including Trisha and Madhavan. Hassan’s Major Mannar enters the screen almost 30 minutes after the film begins, and in an effortlessly disarming style portrays the life of a man torn between duty to his cancer-stricken friend and professional ethics. Forced to lie to his client (Madhavan), who hires him to trail his fiancée (Trishna) as she goes on a European holiday, the Major is pained when he is pushed to sully a woman’s character, because her fiancé only wants to hear that, and will only pay the fee if he hears that.
We see traces of the old Kamal as he runs through the entire gamut of feelings. As a private detective, he admirably essays a man plagued by guilt and saddened by his own personal tragedy. When he finds that he about to orchestrate another by dividing the lovers, he is distressed. Hassan infuses into his role the dilemma and dichotomy of the sleuth called upon only to ruin a relationship.
Manmadan Ambu’s basic plot of a suspicious guy wanting to keep an eye on the woman he loves is quite novel, and had the work stuck to this, it could have been far more engaging. Instead, the script begins to meander through a series of puerile situations, and soon the main theme gets all blurred. Despite some lovely shots of Venice (where the climax unfolds in the labyrinth of canals, in the web of deceit and in the maze of characters), Rome, Paris and Marseilles, some splendid performances and a great looking Kamal, the work fails to fly high.