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Maanaadu review: Make time for this engaging and entertaining thriller

Release Date: 25 Nov 2021

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Haricharan Pudipeddi

The film, which revolves around the concept of a temporal loop, is accessible and features excellent performances by Silambarasan TR and SJ Suryah.

Maanaadu is just the kind of film Silambarasan TR, who is making a comeback of sorts, has been on the lookout for. In every popular star’s career, there’s always a particular film that is a gamechanger, and Maanaadu, in all probability, is that film for Silambarasan. It’s also an equally important film for Venkat Prabhu, who proves once again why he’s one of the most exciting mainstream filmmakers, despite a few misfires, in Tamil cinema. Venkat, sort of, makes a very strong statement about his form with Maanaadu, which is a highly enjoyable, crowd-pleasing, and accessible time-loop thriller. 

Silambarasan TR plays Abdul Khaliq, who lands in Ooty from Dubai for a wedding. It’s supposed to be a fun trip as he plans to 'abduct' the bride in order for her to get married to his friend. Everything goes as planned and they manage to get away with the bride, but a small accident on the way gets them arrested. SJ Suryah plays Dhanushkodi, a top cop who is working on a plan to assassinate the state’s chief minister with the help of his close aide, and Khaliq finds himself entangled in this political conspiracy. As Khaliq tries to stop the assassination by exposing the truth, he begins to realize he’s stuck in a time loop. The only way to get out of it is by stopping the assassination, but Dhanushkodi won’t let that happen so easily. This leaves both Khaliq and Dhanushkodi trying to stop and outsmart each other while figuring out a way out of the endless cycle. 

It isn’t easy to take a concept like a temporal loop and make it accessible for the masses. Venkat Prabhu cracks this formula successfully and that’s what saves Maanaadu from becoming just another novel attempt gone haywire. It is this formula that makes the film highly enjoyable, but at the same time uses the sci-fi concept in such a way that it never leaves the audiences wondering what’s happening. Venkat manages to dumb down the idea and break it down for all sections of the audience. One of the best scenes of the movie happens in a coffee shop where the hero is trying to explain to his friends how this day in his life is repeating in a loop. Venkat doesn’t believe in explaining the science behind the concept; instead, he chooses to name popular Hollywood films that prominently feature it. It’s these things that make Venkat Prabhu one of the most exciting filmmakers of our times. 

Another factor that makes Maanaadu highly enjoyable is that each iteration of the same scene is presented in a way that isn’t boring, and there’s something new to offer to the viewers each time. Another interesting perspective is that the time loop is told from the hero’s point of view in the first half and from the villain’s standpoint after the interval. This is a very interesting approach. SJ Suryah, as the antagonist, is unbelievably good. Very few actors can convincingly and effectively make even over-the-top performance stand out, and Suryah is brilliant throughout the movie. The scenes where’s he's trying to understand why he’s stuck in a time loop while trying to get a grip on reality leaves the audience in splits. Silambarasan also delivers an effortless performance as Abdul Khaliq, a role that’ll be remembered for a long time. Kalyani Priyadarshan is good and shines in the limited screen space she gets.