He is the brightest shade of the Ordinary Man…or the dullest shade of the Extraordinary Man. The kind we don’t give a second glance on the road. Those who clean cars and cut our hair. Smile, yes that’s his name, is so painfully inconspicuous he had to be played by Yogi Babu,you wouldn’t notice him even if he was dancing naked on the street.
When Smile needs an adhaar card to vote he takes the help of a kindly female government servant Thenmozhi (Sheila Rajkumar) who is the kind of bureaucratic worker we all wish there was more of. It is Thenmozhi who suggests the name Mandela for our barbar hero. In return he offers to dye her one strand of grey hair she seems very conscious of. In this way the plot mixes the social comment with lighthearted jibes.We can’t be serious about the state of the nation all the time.
In what could be considered a most unusual mix of political satire and a savage critique of the caste system, Mandela brings forward the thrusts and heaves of a social-political system based on inequality.There is a vivid brutality to the way ‘Mendela’ is used by the two factions of the village fighting elections.
That the two factions are captained by two brothers from the same family adds an ironic dimension to the plot: if siblings from the same family are at each other’s throat how can they manage to look after their constituency?I don’t think the sprawling political satire actually mentions the irony.
Savagely uncompromising in its vision of an irredeemably compromised political system Mandela could have been a far better film if it had chosen not to meander through a serpentine maze of incidents and experiences in the protagonists’ life with indifferent neighbours and bullying politicians, which after a point, begins to appear like too much of the same thing over and over again.
Though the meditation on mobocracy is engaging it tends to get oppressive when the crowds on screen begin to crowd the plot flooding the frames with their incessant greed gab and doublespeak. What comes across is the oppression of the disempowered individual who is kicked around for his voting power and neglected otherwise.
The payback when it comes , is not unconvincing. Some of the plot twists in this significant political satire seem farcically far-fetched . But no one can deny the power and strength of this first-time writer-director’s voice .When Madonne Ashwin speaks, we must listen. Because he has something important to say about the common man and the right to vote.
Mandela begins and ends with the construction of a public toilet. Reminded me of the promise that Akshay Kumar made about constructing toilets so that women won’t have to attend the call of Nature in full view. That prem katha seems to have gone down the toilet. Mandela shows nothing has changed. It never will.
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