Rakesh's movie talk
Chandramukhi (2005)

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Written and directed by P. Vasu
Starring Rajinikanth, Prabhu, Jyothika, Vadiveloo, Sheela and Nassar


Three warnings:

1 – There may be a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know what happened towards the ending of the movie, stay out of this review.

2 – Not recommended for non-Rajini fans.

3 – Like the reviews I wrote for Rajini and Kamal, I may take some time to get to the point, er-hum.


At the end of Baba review, I wrote this:


“The ending hangs, and opens a lot of question. I hope it will get him to do more films.  More meaningful films that will finally highlight his real acting talent.”


Well, we are almost there. It took the Superstar almost another three years before his next film arrived, and like what I had hoped he delivered something that does more to his talent than his self-imposed role as a ‘preacher’.


Not that Chandramukhi lacks the typical Rajini preaching. There are some, found mostly in the songs. Other than that, his dialogues are restricted to the requirements of the scenes in the film. In short, the old Rajini of the terrific seventies and early eighties, the silly but fun mid eighties, the serious late eighties and nineties... phew... is back.


I had always said this and I say it again, if there are three leading (contemporary) stars I respect in Tamil, it would be (in this order) Kamal, Rajini and Sathyaraj. The three share common forte – they can fit in any given genre. All three had done serious dramas, comedy, satires, and Rajini stands out especially since he had done mystical films – Sri Ragavendra and Baba. Okay, Sathyaraj was in Sri Ragavendra and Kamal appeared with Rajini in Alauddinum Arputha Villaku. But the former’s appearance was a cameo and the later movie was a folklore that's not Indian.


Rajini has done some of the most ridiculous movies and delivered some of the worst performance in Tamil movie. He was so hardworking in the seventies and eighties, that he never realised he made some great movies as well as some stinkers. With proper material, and direction, like the GREAT Sivaji Ganesan, he can blow the screen away.


And he was almost there in this movie.


My point is this; it’s great to have Rajini back in this comedy/mystical/physiological flick. His facial muscle has losened and he is great here in physical comedy. Only his delivery seemed to have slowed down a bit, but only here and there.


What is Chandramukhi about and why the hell the title is not Rajini’s character’s name? Ever since err... Siva (I think) Rajini has been using his character’s name or title for movies. This will mark the first time for him to do so using something that is central to the film, and is most important to the heroine. In fact, in most scenes, Rajini is just one of the players, instead of being the dominating lead.


Oh, back to the film.


Chandramukhi is the name of a dancer, who died more than 100 years ago killed by her husband, a Maharaja, when she resumed her love affair with her lover from past after forcefully married by the king.


That was past. Now, architect Prabhu and his wife, played by Jothika, and a family he is trying to unite with buys over the house where Chandramukhi and the king lived. Rajini plays a psychiatrist, Saravanan, who helps out Prabhu when mysterious going-ons takes place in that house.


It starts out with mysticism and since Rajini is the psychiatrist, we are given a quick psychological explanation to the whole shebang. In fact, it takes a bit of getting used to listening to Rajini mouthing words such as, “Split-personality” or “Psychosis”. This is perhaps the most intelligent character Rajini has played and that takes getting used too, since we are too used to see him in blue collar roles.


This is reportedly a remake of the Malayalam film, which I had not seen. Mohanlal, who plays Rajini’s role, only makes an appearance towards the end, and it actually explains why Rajini’s role seems to be stuffed in during the first half. He is crucial only after second half, but there is a period where his character leaves town, and you really miss him. Such is the power of his screen presence.


Coming back to the notion of a remake. I think it would be unfair to compare it to the Malayalam film. Rajini’s Muthu was a remake of Malayalam movie. My family had seen the original, and while they admitted the superiority of the Malayalam in the story department, it is more fun in Tamil film. I believe it is so with this film, especially if you are a Rajini fan.


Onto the performances. Everyone acquits to his or her role well, and Jyothika surpassed even herself. Simran was supposed to have done it, and she would have ruined it with her overacting (or non-acting). Jyothika stole the show especially when the film was approaching the climax. Speaking of show stealing, Vadiveloo is up to his trick again. He hits it off with Rajini perfectly even thought the last this two worked together was ten years ago. I really laughed my ass off during their scenes. Both complement each other as great comedians, even though Rajini is not full time.


Aside: Ten years ago, Rajini did Muthu, which was also a Malayalam remake. The original also starred Mohanlal. And Muthu co-starred Vadiveloo. End of aside.


Prabhu (and his brother Ram Kumar) is the producer of this film, and have spared no money in making this film look as rich as possible. Prabhu himself is fast becoming a good character actor, and his role here is certainly larger than Vasool Raja M.B.B.S. I wish he had done more, seeing that he is such a good actor. This is Sivaji Films 50th film and the late Master appears in twice; first during the intro of Sivaji Films and on a large framed photo in the movie. Miss the old man.


The films biggest disappointment is the music. None of the songs are memorable, except the slow melodic ones which Vidyasagar is supposedly good at. I believe they will be forgotten too. But it is nice to see S.P. Bala singing for Rajini. This combination should not stop, unlike Kamal who last had Bala singing for him only when A.R. Rahman was composing the songs. And oh, there is no intro-song we normally see in Rajini movies the last ten years. There is one preachy song with group dance, but it makes appearance much later.


And the background score, which is very important in the horror/mystical scenes, were overdone. When are they going to learn the art of subtlety? Ilayaraja and Rahman would have had a field day with a material like this.


Note: I would like to issue this warning to composers (other than Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman) who will be working for future Rajini/Kamal films. Some of the great music (background score and songs) the last three decades were from these two stars’ film. It’s part of Tamil film history and don’t you dare freakin’ screw up.


Director P. Vasu has done a good job during the comedy scenes and also during the climax where Jyothika struts her stuff. I have not seen his films of late, the last being Malabar Police that was good. Used to think of him as just a hack director, but I think he is making progress here.


There had been talk that Vasu had been claiming this story is his own. The filmmakers of the original Malayalam wanted to sue him, and I don’t know what happened next. Vasu did not take the story credit here. And the script is okay. The dialogues are not Crazy Mohan material, whereby they rely entirely on the performances of actors for laugh. Even the usually somber Nassar is funny in some scenes. Vasu could have exploited some more, as we remember well how riotous Nassar was in Avvai Shanmugi. 


Overall, Chandramukhi is a damned good entertaining movie. Vasu may get some high profile job after all, knowing well that this film will be a big hit. The same goes to Sivaji Films which has consistently been producing some high quality productions. Things look good in the Tamil film industry, and with the comeback by Rajini and Sivaji Films, lets hope it will get better and better.


Well, there is a talk that Rajini is set to make another film very soon and all I can say to him is, “F**k politics. The only thing you are damned good at is entertaining us on screen. You are born to do it, and so don’t neglect us.”


Note A: Two questions:

  1. What happens to the laughably bad Malayalam-accented villain who appears during the opening?
  2. Why is there a laughably bad CGI giant snake in the house? What’s its purpose?


Note B: Rajini does not smoke in this film. But then, he smoked only in the last two film. He did not smoke in Arunachalam, Muthu (except one song sequence), Veera, Mannan, Talabathi, Ejaman etc. So, listen Ramthas, you pr**k! Do your politicking elsewhere and don’t try to use Kamal and Rajini for your political gain.