Joginder Tuteja explains why Ponmagal Vandhal fails, both as courtroom drama and thriller.
There is something exciting about courtroom dramas.
Unless they are really uninspiring, this genre has high drama, twists and turns, suspense, arguments, counter-arguments, dialogue and then of course, the ultimate redemption.
Surprisingly, and unfortunately, Ponmagal Vandhal fails in a majority of these departments.
Now that's not something that one could see coming in a film with Jyothika as the lead protagonist and her husband Suriya as the producer.
What's disappointing is that even though the film starts with a double murder in the serene beauty of Ooty, hence setting the stage for a suspenseful drama, everything comes to a halt once the leading lady is introduced via a montage song.
It tries to be emotional and heartwarming but the impact is lost, even as the lady frequently stops her father-like figure (K Bhagyaraj) to stop doing household work.
This is the least troubling part of the affair as after a couple of loud sequences outside the court (trying to be funny but falling flat), the drama moves a double murder that had taken place 15 years earlier.
The manner in which first-time director J J Frederick handles the narrative, you can sense an interval twist right at the onset. That is disappointing.
Despite a lot of potential to make the clash between the two lawyers (Jyothika and R Parthiban) exciting, the writers take an emotional appeal.
Instead of relying on facts, evidence and mind games, the idea is to have tears and emotional speeches do the talking, and that dilutes the impact.
One could still have lived with a 42-year-old Jyothika pass off as a 25-year- old debutant lawyer in the film, provided her make-up had been done better. After all, as an actor, she has proven her mettle for a long time now.
However, her personal team can be held guilty of not making her seem convincing in the part. Still, at least she tries.
As does K Bhagyaraj (though one wonders what was the editing team thinking when they were interspersing his reaction shots in the opening court sequence; it is so patchy!).
R Parthiban could have been menacing.
Yes, he was asked to bring in a humane side to the drama, but still, given his screen presence and dialogue delivery, he could have been given a more meaty part. But that's the case.
The worst is reserved for the main villain, played by Thiagarajan. He is plain bad in an all-important role where he had to look threatening and intimidating. But other than a cursory washing of hands after (fake) tapping a poor farmer for comfort, he does nothing.
The film does attempt to get in the second half.
The flashback sequences take you to the actual series of incidents that had unfolded and though you have an idea around it all, a couple of sequences shock you. But the second hour seems at least 20 minutes too long. There is also a point where you cringe, as the gory details are spelled out on camera.
That was just not needed.
What was also not needed was the change in conscience that the judge (Pratap Pothen) had towards the pre-climax.
Really, was he indeed what he was made out to be for large part of the film?
Was there actually a turn that he took later in the narrative or was it some sort of an unnecessary twist that was just left unanswered before the end credits started rolling?
Guess we will never find out!