Cast: Yogi Babu, Sheela Rajkumar, Sangili Murugan, G M Sundar and others
Music: Bharath Sankar
Cinematography: Vidhu Ayyanna
Editing: Philomin Raj
Rating: Four stars
Director Madonne Ashwin’s Mandela is a fantastic comedy with a deep, meaningful storyline that showcases in a humourous way the deep-rooted caste differences that are prevalent in society even to this day.
The film is in a league of its own simply because unlike most other comedy films that release these days, it does not sacrifice logic and content for the sake of comedy.
The film makes you laugh but at the same time, presents the situations in all seriousness and with sensitivity. To make something like this, one requires exceptional skill and director Ashwin, who is only making his debut with Mandela, proves that he is among the exceptional lot.
To put it simply, this is more than just tight rope walking. It is tight rope walking with one’s eyes closed while walking in a pair of stilettos!
The story is about two adjoining villages, each of which is dominated by members of one particular caste. The interesting fact is that both villages have great regard for their president (Sangili Murugan), a man who geniunely wishes to see both communities come together as one. For this reason, he has two wives, one from each community. However, be it his wives or the sons he has through them, people are at loggerheads with one another, each claiming their own caste to be superior to the other.
As the old man’s term nears its end, a fight over who should be the first to use a newly built public toilet between the two communities breaks out. It leaves the old man in a semi paralyzed state even as elections are announced.
Politicians and their stooges are more interested in who is going to become the next president as they want the next president to be as corrupt as they are. They hope to make money selling off the villagers lands to corporates.
When both the the old man’s sons get to know how much commission they can make as president, both want the post.
The old man however is reluctant to back either of his sons. So, a contest between both sons and the villages that back them begins. Both decide to contest the elections. The candidates start taking stock of the number of votes they are likely to get and they realise that they both have equal support. They desperately begin looking for that one elusive vote which can help them win the election. It is at this time that they realise that there is one more person in the constituency. The man is the village’s barber (Yogibabu), who comes under neither village nor is a member of either community.
The poor soul, who until then is exploited by villagers from both sides, suddenly finds himself the centre of attention after a kind-hearted post woman helps him get an election identity card.
For the sake of getting a voter id, she christens him Mandela, after the great Nelson Mandela.
Both sides try to win Mandela’s favour by pampering him with gifts. At one point, their kindness turns into frustration as the man is unsure whom to support. Eventually, both sides try to threaten and force him to vote for them. What happens next is what the film is all about.
The hero of the film undoubtedly is its director, Madonne Ashwin. His brilliant screenplay and direction make the film an entertaining affair all the while creating an awareness about the true nature of human beings.
One important aspect about Mandela is that it does not look to present all villagers as being naive, innocent people who are exploited. It shows that villagers too, especially women, can be manipulative, calculative and exploitative in their own ways.
The film’s actors do a fantastic job of playing their parts. Yogi Babu delivers a performance that is perfect for the story. The same can be said of actress Sheela Rajkumar, who plays the female lead. For that matter, there is not a single actor, who overdoes his job.
Bharath Shankar’s music and Vidhu Ayyanna’s visuals are a treat to one’s ears and eyes respectively.
Philomin Raj’s editing is outstanding as there is not a moment’s boredom in the film. Thanks to his tight editing, the film is a treat to watch.
In short, Mandela is a rock star and definitely stands tall!