Maanadu & Minnal Murali: Intention is important
At the end of 2021, we witnessed two mainstream films with strong writing with no loose ends and equally powerful antagonists: Venkat Prabhu’s Maanaadu and Basil Joseph’s Minnal Murali. While Maanaadu had a blockbuster theatrical run, Minnal Murali opted for direct streaming on Netflix, beneficial to the makers.
While I enjoyed watching both of the films, I started appreciating the scripts of the films after a couple of days. Venkat Prabhu wrote Maanaadu, while Arun Anirudhan and Justin Mathew wrote Minnal Murali. Both of them had a unique element in the story, and they were democratic enough to make the protagonist and the antagonist equally equipped with special powers.
Disclaimer: No matter how much I try, I can’t explain well about these two movies. I’d recommend everyone to watch the two movies.
Let’s discuss how two movies progress, starting from Maanaadu, followed by Minnal Murali.
STR plays Abdul Khaliq, who comes to India for the personal purpose of uniting a couple, his friend Eshwara Moorthy played by Premgi and Eshwara’s girlfriend, Zarina. They plan to take Zarina away from her arranged wedding and safely escort Eshwara and Zarina after their marriage at a registered office.
Jaison is a tailor who aspires to migrate to the US and is in the process of getting a passport. He is in love with a girl who ditches him, and this love failure doesn’t look serious for us either. He doesn’t have any serious goals, apart from going to the US and praising Abibas, the original!
Enter SJ Suryah, who plays DCP Dhanushkodi, who is on the purpose of creating chaos by framing an innocent as a murderer and instigates that innocent of killing the Chief Minister during a conference. See, the antagonist has a serious goal and can be seen to go to any extent to make it happen.
Enter Guru Somasundaram, who plays Shibu, an honest lover who reminds us of 96! He is not appropriately treated by the people surrounding him. We initially empathise with the character and hope his love story has a happy ending. He distantly observes Usha, who returns to the town with her child after being eloped with a lorry driver. He has a personal goal of expressing his love towards her and being with her.
In a sudden turn of events, Abdul is instigated to kill the CM in the conference and is immediately surrounded and killed by the police soon after he kills the CM. Magic happens then! Soon after he gets killed, he wakes up on the aeroplane to Coimbatore and is bewildered by what is happening. He witnesses everything happening again, asks a couple of people the same question, and slowly makes sense of the strange loop he is into! If he dies on the same day, he wakes up the next moment in the flight.
On the eve of Christmas, Jaison dresses as Santa Claus (Red clothes) and goes to meet his girlfriend (oh, ex-girlfriend) at her home. He curses both of them and shouts that she even ditches her would be, and flash! Lightning strikes him, and he collapses unconsciously. His friends admit him to the hospital, and he turns out to be normal the following day while slightly feeling strange.
Equality in power
While testing out his loop-super power in one of the iterations, Abdul happens to fight with DCP, and there is some transfer of blood between these two people, which makes DCP sir stuck in the same loop. The only difference is Abdul is the one who should die to restart the day for two of them but not DCP sir. He has got only one precious life, though.
After learning that his lover returned to their hometown, Shibu takes a boat ride to her place and eagerly awaits to see her. Feeling nostalgic, he wears a red shirt and flash! The lightning hits him too. We are shown three sites where the lightning is hit; two are covered here — one for Jaison and one for Shibu. Shibu wakes up the next day and feels strange about his health like Jaison!
Now coming to the fundamental difference in making Abdul Khaliq Jaison the protagonists, and Dhanushkodi, Shibu the antagonists in these two parallel stories: Purpose.
Abdul starts with the personal purpose of uniting his friend Eshwar with Zarina. As he finds it strange to be stuck in the loop, he discusses with his friends about the loop. He recalls how there were riots when he was born and how his family took shelter inside the temple in Ujjain until the situation outside was under control.
After killing the CM, Abdul decides to stop the riots instigated by Dhanushkodi and Paranthaman. He vents his frustration on how a community will face discrimination in society for wrongdoings over political gains. Abdul takes the risk of getting killed (err, it’s not a risk), but he risks losing his friends after Dhanushkodi threatens to kill them. He discovers that he is stuck in this loop to solve a purpose higher than himself, making him the story’s protagonist. Observe that Dhanushkodi also has the same power of reversing things, but he is on a personal gain by killing people and creating chaos, which makes him the bad guy here. So, with morality, it is inevitable that Abdul wins :)
Now, coming to Jaison-Shibu’s story, Jaison seems purposeless, and the character doesn’t connect well with us initially. On the other end, Shibu has a vital purpose of being with his lover and taking care of her child. The only problem here, he goes on the wrong path in meeting his needs.
See, even Jaison abuses his superpower by bashing police in the annual school function, which is morally wrong as both of them have personal goals, the greater the abuse, the more chances of you losing the game at the end.
To be honest, the villagers are the culprits in killing two innocent people. Ethically speaking, these set of villagers deserve punishment. Again, here comes the parallel with Jaison’s biological father, who dies in an accident while saving people from a fire accident.
Jaison does the same, but he has to fight a monster who seeks vengeance on the villagers for killing his love. Even the police release Jaison from the jail to stop (okay, kill) Shibu. Both of them initially use the special power for selfish reasons, but the one who uses it for the greater good deserves to win. This movie reflects the grey characters we are, with no display of ethics everywhere, and we change the boundaries of morality according to our needs.
Ah, finally, we are towards the end of the blog. I thought of writing a blog on Maanaadu. Still, after watching Minnal Murali, I decided it is better to write about both of them in one blog as they feel similar in many aspects concerning the writing of characters.