All of us have grown up listening to the brave fables of the wise minster Thenaliraman. We've been in awe of his prowess, knowledge and spontaneous smartness. There have been a number of portrayals and stories of Thenaliraman in the past, and after a movie of modern times 'Potta Potti', director Yuvaraj has taken a turn towards period at comic entertainer, strongly inspired by the fabled minister Thenaliraman. The project started off with a long title which was later shortened down to just 'Thenaliraman', and the film has Vaigai Puyal Vadivelu in dual roles for healthy entertainment.
Vadivelu plays both the king and also Thenaliraman. The benevolent - and quite ignorant - king has a mighty kingdom, figuratively half of which his own family fills at a battalion of 36 wives and 52 children, and the nation is ably - or made to believe so - governed by his nine - Navaratna - ministers. Roaming free as a commoner, Thenaliraman encashes the opportunity when there's a test of talent to replace a deceased minister, by answering wise and impressing the king from the very first instance. Meanwhile, it is not only the king, but also the princess who is impressed which eventually transforms into her liking for him. And along with all the fame, also comes a lot of jealousy and ill will from the other eight ministers, as Thenaliraman undoubtedly becomes the front runner and favourite of all the nine to the king. But all this is a drama in neat disguise for a fool proof revenge plan. When this comes to light, Thenali is expelled from the kingdom. And yet, he manages to save the day and kingdom. How he does that in non violent wise smartness is all that makes the two and half hour movie.
Most part of the film is from the tales that we've listened and grown up to, about Thenaliraman. Although the film is a fictitious take only inspired by Thenaliraman, the scenes taken straight from the pages of Panchatantra leave little room for creativity. Vadivelu in dual roles is supposed to mean double dosage of laughter; but with drama taking over light-hearted screenplay; it is more predictably flat than spontaneously enjoyable. However, the relativity of stately politics to current trends in governance makes us sit up and lend an ear. Dialogues have been penned down in all neutrality which enables to enhance the applicability of the situations portrayed to the present day scenario. Most part of the story revolves around the king, Thenali and the eight other ministers. Manobala plays the education minister and is an active member in the entertaining league in the film. Radha Ravi plays a convincing villain as he is most often acclaimed for. Meenakshi Dixit debuts as heroine, the princess in this film. She's attractive and highly expressive.
When it comes to period set movies, it is art direction which is the front runner. Be it the very Indian populace or the Chinese, from commoners to the royalties, the screen setting is perfectly convincing. However, there are certain characterisations, like the tribes in wilderness, which could have had a more practical visual appeal than dramatically high outfits. Five tracks in all, and the overall background score by Imman, compliment the film and story at every level. Songs are strategically situated, without hindering the flow of the story. But what does hinder the flow is unannounced flashing back and forth to incidents, which renders the screenplay rather confusing. Though cinematography justifies the story on the whole, graphics end up unsatisfactory in quite many places. Further, a lot of strings are left untied in the story, like the King's family or Thenali's love affair. Forget all the minor hitches, 'Thenaliraman' is an enjoyable light-hearted entertainer.