Movie Review : Mouna Guru ( Tamil, 2011)

Been a long time since I saw a movie that I came away impressed and wanted to write about. One of the new movies that I have been wanting to watch, is this hindi action-thriller called Akira, starring Sonakshi Sinha.

Hyped up as a high-octane action thriller from the makers of Ghajini, A R Murugadoss directed Akira promos looked pretty promising. But the initial reviews I read, really put me off. But good things are worth waiting for, huh. So I did find that this one's actually inspired by a 2011-Tamil thriller, called Mouna Guru. I had never heard of this movie but figured, I might as well watch the original. remakes never do justice, we know that by now right?

First day of the long weekend, finding myself alone at home with the doggies for company, I did just that. Verify that the original beats the remake, by a far bigger margin that I had expected. Relatively low budget, this one doesn't have any 'stars' and is also the debut directorial by Santha Kumar. Apparently this went onto become a sleeper hit and has been remade across other south indian languages. This really piqued my curiosity and I knew I had to see the movie. Even so, I kept my expectations in pretty much a tight rein.

The movie starts off very un-dramatically, focusing on this serious college youth, Karunakaran ( Played by a stoic looking Arul Nidhi) who's life revolves around his studies in Madurai. We learn nuances about the young man - in terms of his kind heart ( A scene early on where he rescues a cobra and sends it to out the wild) and that he's an extremely righteous man who cannot abide by to see any wrongs committed. A bit hot-headed as well, this combination obviously doesn't bode well for him in this restrained society. A scuffle with a policeman lands him in trouble, getting rusticated from the college and thus, having him move into the big city Chennai pattanam where his brother, manages to find him admission through his contacts.

Initial forty minutes, the movie plods along at a sedate pace - setting us up with Karuna's character, a nice but brief love-story with Aarthy, his sister-in-law's sister ( Iniya: Immensely talented in this bit-role!), the brief conflicts at college with the good-for-nothing ruffians who disrupt the classes and likes. The pace really perks up (literally plunges down into a rabbit-hole with no brakes!) with the introduction of John Vijay's character. He's mean, to dirty rotten core of his character's heart and plays the nasty cop role with aplomb, giving menace a new meaning. That's the start of where the movie really started to shine.

ACP Marimuthu and his close coterie of cops, three others, witness a road accident - and decide to hush it up and make away with a bag full of money in the car. But the secrets spill - and the body count starts to go up. The screenplay is twisted but taut, never letting up - leading different threads to entwine and enmesh, further plunging the movie down darker places. One thread ends up at Karuna's hostel one night and implicates him as the one trying to exhort money from the ACP to keep things hushed up. Karuna is taken away by the ACP's gang and they decide to do away with loose ends through a staged encounter, deep in the forest reserves on the TN-AP Border.

Hats off to the cinematographer Mahesh Muthuswami and of course, the debutante director Shantha Kumar for sticking true to the dictates of the thriller genre. I was on tenterhooks throughout the movie, despite the cliched settings. The encounter scene deep in the forest, is testimony to this. It's a creepy, hauntingly claustrophobic scene where the gun jams just as the Inspector Rajendran is about to shoot Karuna in the head. Timed to perfection and a proof that, in such relatively unknown small movies, thriller as a genre still thrives and flourishes in Tamil.

Things fall off the edge of a cliff after that - with the narrative just rushing ahead like a steam-engine at full throttle with too many things happening all at once. Karuna is the unwitting victim of the twisted egos and deep-seated greed in the heart of people who run the political system. But he isn't taking this lying down. Things explode after a particularly well-shot escape scene in the mental asylum after which Karuna decides to take things into his own hands and takes the fight to the people who screwed up his life.

Arulnidhi who plays the lead character, does well in flashes and bits. He has to play this restrained character who is chomping at the bits to let go and fly off his handle, but lives within the constraints of living in this society that turns a blind eye to wrong-doings. Initially this act comes across as forced, wooden and stoic but he gradually settles into the role. Especially the parts of a short romance which I liked purely because of Iniya's lively act, I would have liked this chap to live it up a bit. But hey after the first half, he really does come into his own. Definitely maturing as an actor but long way to go.

The supporting cast is absolutely brilliant. Each cameo done so well, memorably etched out in that script. The Father who is the head of the school or the mentally unstable friend in the asylum who helps Karuna escape, the police-gang in cahoots with ACP and best of all, crime-inspector Palaniamma ( played by Uma Riyaz Khan) who really stole the scene with her character of that 'one' morally upright police-woman in the system who strives to do the "right" thing. Wonder why she doesn't get more roles ?

To sum up, if this weekend you decided to shell out a thousand bucks on your neighbourhood cineplex - then don't! I think you are much better off staying at home, watching this movie which is the original of the Sonakshi-Sinha action-fest Akira ( which by the way, is a damp squib that even Sonakshi-rambo-Sinha's pyrotechnics cannot save! Yes. Despite Anurag Kashayap. Despite A R Murugadoss. This female-lead Ghajini is better off with full on memory-loss!)

A seriously under-rated well-made thriller that is a gem to have come out of this movie industry too busy worshiping "super-stars" delivering illogical blockbusters. Hats off to Santha Kumar and his team. Afternoon well-spent. 


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