Maanagaram movie review: A shocking night of clashing lives in Chennai

Updated on Mar 07, 2017 01:13 PM IST

Lokesh Kanagaraj’s debut work, Maanagaram, works like a Shakespearean play of mistaken identities. The medley of characters may get confusing in the beginning but it soon settles down to greater clarity and is peppered with surprises.

Maanagaram stars Sundeep Kishan, Shri and Regina Cassandra in the lead roles.
Maanagaram stars Sundeep Kishan, Shri and Regina Cassandra in the lead roles.
Hindustan Times, Chennai | ByGautaman Bhaskaran

Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj
Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Shri, Regina Cassandra, Madhusudhan, Charle
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Somewhere, Lokesh Kanagaraj’s debut work, Maanagaram (Big City), resembles a Shakespearean play of mistaken identities -- of men who suffer because they are at the wrong place and wrong time. The film follows the lives of several people in Chennai during a 48-hour period -- which sees the trials and tribulations of these men and women who learn from their personal disasters the value of goodness.

Shri is a young man pushed to the city from his small town by his girlfriend’s family, which feels that he can earn a respectable salary only in a teeming metropolis. But the path to his job interview - conducted by Regina Cassandra, who is fighting her own demons in the form of a boyfriend, Sundeep Kishan, a loafer adamantly refusing to earn and make a decent start in life - is strewn with mishaps. He gets beaten up by hoodlums who mistake him for Kishan, and in the bloody scuffle Shri loses his original certificates which he needs to firm up his appointment.

At another end, a little boy is kidnapped from school, and here again it is the wrong kid, and horror of horrors, he is the child of a notorious goonda, PKB (Madhusudhan), who specialises in third-degree torture of his detractors.

And there is also a cab driver, Charle, who gets an assignment in an information technology company (where Shri lands an assignment), but has no clue about the city roads - having just arrived into Chennai.

In a movie that picks up its tempo after nightfall and plays out mostly on the city’s deserted roads, we see a very well edited drama taking place at many levels. Kishan has been ordered by his policeman uncle to get out of the city for a while, but the young man keeps hanging outside Regina’s hostel in the hope that she would patch up with him. Somewhere else, we see PKB looking for his kidnapped son with the thugs demanding a huge ransom and sending him on a wild goose chase, while Charle is trying to take to Shri home.

These stories converge at a point - which is not exactly novel, for we have seen an excellent version of this kind of treatment in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Mexican work, Babel -- which is fascinating study of four inter-related events that unfold in different countries like Morocco, Mexico, US and Japan, but which converge in the end. Maanagaram may not play out in different cities, but is an equally gripping narrative about different people in different situations whose lives, in some kind of a remarkable coincidence, clash with one another on a lonely night.

Maanagaram may seem confusing in its first few minutes with a medley of characters fighting for screen space, but the work soon settles down to greater clarity and even narration -- which is peppered with surprises. And these, of course, keep your attention riveted to the story.

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