Ponmagal Vandhal Tamil Movie Review
Ponmagal Vandhal Movie Review: JJ Fredrick’s Ponmagal Vandhal has been in the news for its makers’ decision to release it directly on an OTT platform (the first high-profile Tamil film to do so), and the controversy surrounding it. But it takes only a few minutes into the film for us to realise that the makers were being just sensible by taking this route rather than go for a theatrical release. For, both in its writing and making, there is a strong made-for-TV feel about this project.
Ponmagal Vandhal is an unapologetic message movie in the guise of a courtroom drama and banks solely on the crusading zeal of its lead star to help it get a favourable verdict from the audiences. Ever since her return to acting, in 2015’s 36 Vayadhinile, Jyotika has largely been spearheading projects that are driven by a message, even earning her the sobriquet Female Samuthirakani. As in the actor’s case, her films have started to be only about the message, sacrificing storytelling and craft in the process. While this might not be too problematic in a film like Raatchasi, that isn’t the case in this film, mainly because of its genre – courtroom drama.
The film begins with a tranquil visual of a misty mountain scape. But soon, the quiet is shattered by gun shots. We are told that Jyothi, a North Indian woman, has murdered a couple of young men who were trying to rescue a girl whom she had kidnapped. News reports claim that she is a psycho killer who kidnaps and murders little girls. And we learn that she has been shot dead in a police operation. The film then cuts to 15 years later when Venba (Jyotika), a rookie lawyer, manages to get the court to reopen Jyothi’s case and argues her side. Who is she and why is she risking everything, especially with the public sentiment strongly against her?
As far as courtroom dramas go, Ponmagal Vandhal is decidedly lacklustre. Instead of fiery dialogues and charged arguments between the opposing lawyers what we get are emotional statements being passed off as explosive proof. And to top it, Fredrick even gives us shots of people in the courtroom wiping off their tears on hearing the lead’s heartfelt speech. But a couple of lines do hit their mark – Udal reedhiya thunburuthapatta palapaer kitta unmaiya thavira endha saatchiyum irukkadhu. And Ramji’s cinematography makes the hill station backdrop come alive, especially in the night shots. But the narrative is utterly predictable leading to a film that is less than compelling at all times. The film reveals its cards right in the beginning that almost every twist comes as no surprise and there is no tension in the proceedings. The treatment feels superficial, more so because the film deals with a sensitive issue — sexual abuse of children.
There are a bunch of supporting characters – Venba’s father Petition Pethuraj (K Bhagyaraj), the opponent lawyer Rajarathinam (Parthiban, whose Parthibanisms in the dialogues grate because of the film’s tone), a rich and powerful businessman Varadharajan (Thiagarajan) and the principled judge (Pratap Pothen) – but none of them are developed beyond their one-note characteristics. As for Jyotika, who gets to play two roles, she gives us earnestness, but that isn’t enough to salvage the excessively melodramatic narrative.