These days you just have to open newspapers to see heart-breaking news of the people of India struggling to get even the most basic medical facilities. Mersal takes that thread and spins an action drama around it. Starting off in Paris, coming to Chennai, taking a detour to the colourful lands of Punjab and winding back to Tamil Nadu – Mersal is a whirlwind ride that does not let you drop you guard till the final scene is done.
Four men are missing, we don’t know why, nor does the police. But, the man who can execute such a deft crime leaves behind an easy trail for the police to reach him. Strange, isn’t it!! What could be his intention? Atlee chooses to tell his story in the form of dots that join towards the end to form a rather, if not completely coherent, narrative. We are introduced to a Vijay who is a doctor, a man who practises medicine in way that it should ideally be, as a service. Popularly known as the ‘Anju roopa doctor’, he is the man who is accessible to the poor and the needy at any time of the day or night. His dream is to make India a place where medical facilities are not a privilege of the rich. To what extent does he go to make his dream come true? Can he do this the Gandhian way of peace and silent duty, or does he choose to eliminate those who stand in his way? Atlee strings this all together, brings in a poignant flashback that gives a personal touch to the plot and links it all up for the climax. The kicker in the plot comes very close to the interval block and the theatre erupts at the moment this twist is revealed – saying anything more would be a spoiler.
The screenplay of Mersal is choc-a-bloc with events with scene after scene not allowing you any time to think about the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of the plot. Atlee continues his signature style of colourful frames and rich visuals, much like the Shankar school of film making that he came from. Almost every frame, be it in Paris or on the streets of Chennai, look delightful much to the credit of debutant cinematographer GK Vishnu. This is the main strength of Mersal; the pace and the colourful screen do not let you think behind or ahead of what’s on screen. That pace, which is credit to the screenplay and editing, masks a whole lot of loopholes in the plot which will spring in your mind once you exit theatres and reflect back on what you saw.
Thalapathy Vijay steals the show; which of course he was meant to do, in a way that only he can. The energy he brings on screen in the fights, dances and the interactions with the lady leads is something that can be watched over and over again, which brings us to the subject of lady leads. There are three of them and we wonder why at least two of them are there. Kajal Aggarwal and Samantha are leading names in multiple industries, and yet they have been given parts that are literally ‘blink and you miss’. The romance portions of these two ladies are as silly as they get. The first interaction between the hero and the heroine is followed immediately by a song on two occasions which further adds to the silliness of it all. The only lady who gets to do anything of note is Nithya Menen, surprisingly the lady who might lowest in the pecking order of heroines in this movie. She grabs her opportunity with elan and makes a statement that she can deliver (quite literally in this movie) the goods when it matters. The flashback portion in the 70s is easily one of the best passages of the movie with Vijay’s look and art work making quite an impact on screen. It is also this portion of the movie where SJ Suryah nails his role as antagonist – he is quite underwhelming in the other portions. One also wonders what Sathyaraj is doing in such an insignificant role; for God’s sake – he is Kattappa.
Music is not much of a factor in Mersal. Not to say that the songs are not great – Aalapporan is wonderful to watch on screen. But the other songs are placed at ungainly places in the script which takes away any merit they might have. One does suggest that anyone who wants to enjoy the songs chose a theatre that has a sound system that can do justice to Rahman’s complex layers of beats and sounds.
Mersal is bumper pack of events, no shortage of twists turns and surprises. There is a flashback that gives a family perspective to the revenge drama, there is a social message that resonates with the audience, there is a scheming villain (who suddenly seems to lose all his intelligence in the climax) – there is everything that you would want in a festival entertainer – even Vadivelu (though we would have a few more comic moments from him, we badly want him back full time on screen). Atlee continues with his rather absurd penchant for showing gruesome road accidents in slow motion – don’t know what pleasure he derives from that. But, there is not a single boring moment on screen, you are engaged throughout. Of course, there are logical loopholes in the plot that can be picked and pointed, but that is not what we do with festival entertainers; we just enjoy them. So go in and enjoy Mersal for what it is, a fast paced revenge drama that holds many twists. Forget the few inconsistencies in characterization, the few logical loopholes in the plot and poorly placed songs – it is still a jolly good Diwali entertainer.
Verdict: A colourful Diwali matthappu that keeps you smiling!
TimesOfCinema Rating : 3.25/5