Going by the posters that screamed “Amaidhipadai – 2” and “Amavasai returns,” I was curious how Manivannan’s Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA would play out as a sequel. After all, when we left the earlier film almost two decades ago, the unscrupulous politician memorably portrayed by Sathyaraj (we first saw him as a leering bumpkin named Amavasai; he later transformed into Nagaraja Cholan) perished in a hail of bullets, at the hands of his illegitimate son (also Sathyaraj), who happened to be a principled cop. (A few years later, Shankar would reverse the polarities of this duo – good father, bad son – to great success in Indian.) Would the episodes in this film take place sometime before Nagaraja Cholan died? (And if so, would the actor be seen in two roles again?) Or were we going to be furnished with a smooth yarn about how Nagaraja Cholan really didn’t die, and how he outfoxed his killer?
But Manivannan is blithely unconcerned about any of this. Nagaraja Cholan is now a scheming Deputy Chief Minister, and he has a son, Gangaikondaan (Raghu Manivannan), who’s cut from the same cloth. Given that Nagaraja Cholan’s wife (Sujatha), in the earlier film, refused to bear his children, how did this son come about? There are no answers. There isn’t even a picture of Sujatha on the wall. The film seems to be some sort of science fiction, unfolding in a parallel dimension even as the events in Amaidhipadai were taking place. But this isn’t the real problem with Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA. If Manivannan wants to take a hit character from a hit film and spin a new story around him, that’s his prerogative – except that the story, this time, doesn’t stick. Amaidhipadai was a juicy melodrama, charged with the tragedy of a betrayed woman and the son who sought to avenge her death. Nagaraja Cholan MA, MLA, to its detriment, abandons the personal for the political.
The conflict here revolves around a Swedish corporation that wants to set up a factory in Tamil Nadu. As one of the film’s many punch lines go, such an undertaking would result in extensive deforestation and environmental pollution, and the people in Sweden will not stand for it – we, on the other hand, don’t care. The scenes with these zingers, delivered either by Nagaraja Cholan or his sidekick Manimaran (Manivannan), do their job, leaving us smiling about the sad state of affairs in the country. But elsewhere, we are asked to be emotionally invested in the plight of the tribals whose land is being coveted – and the rambling narrative simply does not pack that kind of emotion. (It doesn’t help that a booty-shaking item song is followed by a scene with tree-hugging tribals.) Manivannan invokes Amaidhipadai in a stretch that recalls Sujatha’s murder, but he shouldn’t have ended with clips from that film, where we hear Ilayaraja’s rousing background score and are reminded of something else that’s gone missing.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.
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