Nayanthara shouldn’t be in flops for long. An actress of her caliber and star power should be able to turn the tide in a jiffy. A split of a moment. And that has yet to happen as her last two films in female centric films failed to grab the eyeballs and dhuddu at the box office.
All three of her co-starring superstars sort of films gave her varying degrees of critical acclaim, she needs to prove her mettle by delivering a hit with her own might. Enter Mookuthi Amman (nose ring goddess or Mukkupudaka Ammavaru in Telugu literally) aka Ammoru Thalli (official Telugu dubbed version). The RJ Balaji creation is a satire on the happenings around us in the name of God.
The world of Engels Ramaswamy
Engels Ramaswamy (A mixture of Engels of communism fame and Ramaswamy as in Periyar - seems to be a big contradiction) is a small time journalist. He’s from a family of communists and like in all of the famous communist families the Home Department is against the ideology. His family deity is a small time Goddess (read: not so famous) Mookuthi Amman in Nagercoil. The movie is centred around the town and there is a Baba - a self proclaimed godman - who wants to give ‘protection’ to an 11,000 acre land in the surroundings.
Like all good protagonists in the films of Amman/Ammoru genre, Engels Ramaswamy is mired in countless problems. His father left his family when he was young. And his mother has brought them (our hero has a sister too quite appropriately) up as a single mother. As the single mother is Urvashi, the problems faced by them makes the audience smile/laugh. The sister is a converted Christian despite being proclaimed by the family as the child of their Goddess.
So, our journalist protagonist needs a villain and our Baba... Bhagavathi Baba is the one. Played by Ajay Ghosh, Bhagavathi Baba has been involved in numerous scams and it is our hero’s duty to expose him. Suddenly, in a flash of lightning Mookuthi Amman appears on the screen. She has an agenda, rational ego (when E. R.’s mother talks glowingly about Lord Venkateshwara in Tirupathi, she gets angry - watch out for this scene), and kindness pertaining to goddesses.
Why Amman suddenly appears? Of course to help our protagonist. But that’s too old school. So the writing team gave her another issue to take care of too. How she solves the problems faced by Engels Ramaswamy and his family, and in turn takes care of the land of 11,000 acres which is 'protected' by Bhagavathi Baba? Answers to these form the part of the story of this film.
Nayanthara’s lady superstar show
Nayanthara is the Goddess in the film. And she indeed saved this brilliant-in-parts and so-so-in-parts satirical comedy. She looked every inch an almighty goddess both in her appearance and performance (including body language). She exhibited a divine aura. In simple terms, she owned the character. And took it to the next level as expected from her both with her grace on the screen and performance.
Urvashi - gives an epic performance
Among the others it’s Urvashi who steals the show in every frame she appears with her dialogues and comedy. You want more of her on the screen every time she misses from the action. Such is the authority she stamps on the proceedings in the film. Though RJ Balaji gave himself a larger role and screen time he did well only in parts. Mouli (the grandfather), Abhinaya (the sister), and Ajay Ghosh shine in their respective roles. But Ajay Ghosh’s Baba Bhagavathi role is more of a caricature.
Writing and direction
But as a writer RJ Balani shines with great one-liners which are both hilarious and thought provoking. The undercurrent philosophical musings are not to be missed. But sometimes he missed the mark with superficial work. The screenplay plays to the gallery. But it is heartening to see the upgraded version of a genre which has seen thousands of released and unreleased films since time immemorial.
The first half of the film is too good with the situational and dialogue humour. The second half where the real action takes place misses the mark. It’s good on the surface but never goes deep into all the issues it has taken up. But what's shown on the screen is effectively done. The taking is trendy. The detailing is neat. The frames are colourful. And there’s a visceral energy in the scenes Nayanthara appears on screen. As a director RJ Balaji passes with distinction alongside N. J. Saravanan.
The musical score needs special mention as it breaks stereotypes for the most part for an Amman genre film. The sounds are trendy with a right mix of traditional notes here and there. The cinematography is crisp. The editing could have been better. There are a few portions of the film which stay unresolved. We cannot say whether it is because of the narrator’s fault or the editor’s. The art department did a splendid job. The production values are good for a film which paid Nayanthara a grand sum of 4 Cr.
Mookuthi Amman (Ammoru Thalli) is a fun ride with a few forgivable flaws. If you take it too seriously, it doesn’t work for you. But as the makers promised a fun ride and positioned the film as a chaotic comedy, we shouldn’t expect classic stuff. It's a commercial entertainer that works for all age groups. Nayanthara is back as the box office goddess. Just give it a try if you want some thought provoking fun.