The unconditional affection between blood relationship has been portrayed very well in Tamil cinema. The ones coming to mind immediately will be 'Poove Poochudava', 'Abhiyum Naanum' and 'Varanam Aayiram'. If we have to include Tamil films about 'Thai Pasam' (Mother sentiment) the list will go long.
Debutante director N.Raghavan's 'Manjapai' revolves around the affection between a grandfather and his grandson. Having a plot that has been very rarely touched in celluloid, has the director struck the chord with us?
Thamizh (Vemal) who has lost his parents while he was kid is brought up by his only Grand Father Venkatasamy (Rajkiran). Years later, Tamizh settles in Chennai as a successful software professional with a good salary and upper middle class life style. He falls in love at first sight with a medical student Karthika (Lakshmi Menon) and manages to win her heart after she understands that he is kind at heart.
Thamizh gets his dream offer to visit US onsite location. While he has three months to pack his bags he invites his Grandfather to Chennai so that they can spend some days together. The affectionate and innocent Grandfather who is new to the high class city culture and sophisticated life style, unwittingly causes many problems to Tamizh which go to the extent of making him loose the onsite offer and causing strains in his relationship with Karthika.
Do these affect the relationship and affection between Tamizh and his grandfather? Does Tamizh overcome the problems and achieve his dreams? The rest of the story tells the answers for these.
The film starts off with a song that aptly conveys the base of the affection between Tamizh and his 'Thatha'. Fast forward 25 years, Vemal is in Chennai and he has a good job, easily manages to convince his boss to offer him an onsite offer, falls in love with a girl whom she meets at a signal, wins her heart by using some funny (that actually do not make us laugh) tricks and with these the first 20-30 minutes of the film constitutes a mash of hundreds of films that have released in the last two decades.
Vemal's life life goes without any problems until his affectionate Grandfather comes to live with him. Only after the beginning of this irony the film starts entertaining us. The episodes of Rajkiran's initial encounters with city culture and his apartment neighbors and the song that has been used to depict these are entertaining and enjoyable. The highly like-able part of these sequences is that that the grandfather does not and need not regret what he does because he is does what his heart says. His righteousness even goes to the extent of slapping a police officer for being careless in ensuring his daughter's safety. Vemal incurring the wrath of his girl friend for the remarks as well as the activities of his grandfather evoke laughter.
Apart from the humor quotient the film has equal scope for sentiment not only between the grand-father grand son relationships but also from the apartment complex neighbors who get along with the grandfather after knowing his caring attitude and innocent nature.
Despite the script having good scope for humor and sentiment the film satisfies both the requirements only up to a level. Many scenes intended to evoke laughter don't even live up to make us smile. The sentiment sequences are highly predictable and clichéd.
Rajkiran's character is the central point of the film and the veteran actor has done his role neatly. Though the character is etched out in a way that captures our hearts with its innocence and kindness, many of his activities that are portrayed as the outcome of his non acquaintance to the city lifestyle are highly unconvincing. One best example for this is his mistaking a lap top for a bread toaster and sadly this mistake leads to an important crisis in the script.
The US embassy sequence and the way the problem gets resolved is a total mess up. The climax and the sequences leading to it are highly dramatic and sentimental which may find some takers among family audience albeit having nothing new to offer.
When it comes to performances it would not be an overstatement to state that Rajkiran has given life not only to his character but also to the whole film. Vemal fits the bill. Lakshmi Menon scores with the limited scope offered by her character. She has also successfully capitalized with the humor element attached to her character.
N.Raghunandan's songs are listenable. The first song 'Aagasa Nilave' sung by S.P.Balasumramaniam lingers in our ears even after leaving the movie halls. Re-recording passes muster. Masani's camera work has nothing to rave or complain about. The Art director could have taken a little care to portray an IT office. There not even a partition between one machine and another. Today even courier companies have partition between workers desks.
'Manjapai' is definitely not on the lines of the previous films of the prestigious Thirrupathi Brothers banner. But it will not disappoint you if you go to the movie halls expecting some unadulterated entertainment filled with humor and sentiment.