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'Pon Manickavel': A murder mystery that's lost its plot (IANS Rating: **)

 
By Manigandan K.R.
Film: 'Pon Manickavel' (Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar). Duration: 138 minutes.

Director: A.C. Mugil Chellappan. Cast: Prabhu Deva, Nivetha Pethuraj, Mahendran, Suresh Menon, Sudhashu Pandey and 'Bahubali' Prabhakar.
IANS Rating: **

Director Mugil Chellappan's 'Pon Manickavel' is a run-of-the-mill entertainer with all those elements that were considered essential for commercial success in Tamil cinema at one point in time.

From songs to dances to fights to a story brimming over with sentimentality, 'Pon Manickavel' has got everything that might have worked wonders some years ago. Times have changed and the audiences have moved on, and so the story fails to impress.

The film begins with a brutal murder. The Chief Justice of a High Court is first shot dead and then beheaded. The case baffles cops as there are four bullet marks on the body of the judge, but no bullets. Adding to their problem is the fact that the bullets used to kill the judge haven't been fired from the same gun. Two are of one kind and the other two, of another.

As pressure mounts on the administration to crack the sensational murder case, the cops have no option but to bring in one of their best, Pon Manickavel (Prabhu Deva). How he gets to the bottom of the case is what the film is all about.

The film starts off on an impressive note, but almost immediately, loses focus. It gets busy showcasing and establishing the altruistic nature of the hero, instead of sticking to the investigation.

If one sequence shows how the hero employs kindness to get the information he requires from a man being interrogated, another shows him coming to the rescue of a disgruntled policeman serving under him, thereby winning his loyalty.

The film doesn't just stop there. It shows how Pon Manickavel is a dutiful husband to his wife Anbarasi (Nivetha Pethuaraj), waiting outside an examination hall for her to finish her exams when he must be out there investigating a sensational case.

After it is done glorifying the hero's character, the focus once again returns to the case at hand. Certain portions that are crucial to the case, however, are just narrated in a hurry, making the plot lose its intensity.

The film could have been a lot more engaging, had unnecessary fight-and-song sequences been cut.

On the performance front, Nivetha Pethuraj as Anbarasi does a neat job. She hasn't got much to do, but she dazzles in those portions in which she appears.

Prabhu Deva, who plays a cop for the first time in his acting career, isn't entirely convincing as Pon Manickavel. The actor does impress in certain sequences, but he looks too lean in certain other sequences, especially those with fights.

Suresh Menon as Arjun K. Maran comes up with a commendable performance as does late director Mahendran, who plays the character of Nasrathulla.

The film's biggest asset is its music. D. Imman's background score is just fantastic. It plays a crucial role in helping the director convey the mood of each sequence to the audience. K.G. Venkatesh's visuals are clean and clutter-free.

In short, 'Pon Manickavel' does have a story, but sadly, it isn't entertaining or engaging enough.

--IANS
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