Watching a Kamal Hassan movie unfold is similar to watching Roger Federer play. It is not the end result that matters. You know he is going to come tops, you watch him play because you are mildly curious about how he wins, was the winning shot a fluid backhand or a slam dunk? You see, it is all about the details. It never once gets into your mind that he might lose a set, the day was just not his, the opponent got lucky…Unfortunately, great people are often given little leeway; perfection is expected, period. Hence when you watch Manmadhan Ambu on screen, you slowly realize that this is not the (un)conventional Kamal Hassan movie. For starters, he is not the protagonist in this movie, the situations are, and Kamal is more involved behind the camera in this movie than he is in front. Trisha plays Ambujakshi (alias Nisha), a film star about to be married to Madhanagopal (Madhavan), a businessman who is constantly suspicious of her profession and integrity. She decides to take a break and go on a vacation cruise with her recently divorced childhood friend Deepa (played by the enthusiastic and at-times funny Sangeetha) and her kids. Madhavan sends a detective (Kamal Hassan) to trail her, who, by the way, has a noble motive for taking up the job. The detective also has a link to the couple’s past, unbeknownst to any of them. So what happens next??
The first half picks up pace and is brisk, with fine performances by Trisha and Sangeetha (some of the one-liners are really funny!). Madhavan is hilarious as the constantly drunk and suspecting boyfriend. The second half unnecessarily adds extra baggage, and although all ends well, there are still some loose ends that are left hanging while some are hurriedly tied up, disturbing the fluidity of the narrative. The cinematography by Manush Nandan and music by Devi Sri Prasad are major positives that help Manmadhan Ambu to be a technically superior film. The music, lyrics, and the innovative montage sequence of “Neelavanam” deserve praise. The hard work put in by the actors during rehearsals shows, the exchanges between them are casual and far from contrived. A crisper story and screenplay would have worked wonders for the movie. Watch it without any expectations. It is like FedEx winning the match, but losing a set. You are happy with the outcome, but you know he could have done better. Alas, that is the curse of greatness!!
Bottomline: Manmadhan Ambu does not hit the bull’s eye, but it does come close