Southern splendour

The release of Mumbai Express and Chandramukhi at the same time is a bonus for fans of Kamalahasan and Rajnikant, writes V. Gangadhar

A scene from Mumbai Express
A scene from Mumbai Express: Inimitable Kamalahasan

Rajnikant in Chandramukhi
Rajnikant in Chandramukhi: A fast-paced thriller

Call it a double whammy, a Baisakhi or Vishu (Tamil New Year) gift. Breaking the tradition of not releasing two big movies at the same time, the simultaneous release of Kamalahasan starrer Mumbai Express and the Rajnikant opus, Chandramukhi made the April heat a bit easier to bear for movie fans.

Kamal had always enjoyed doing comedy and his latest is a fitting successor to the hilarious Chachi 420. Believe it or not, diehard fans in parts of Tamil Nadu demonstrated against the title, arguing that it was ‘culturally degrading’ to have an ‘English title’ for a Kamal film. That put off the actor a bit but he was quick to point out to the acceptance of several trains like the Blue Mountain Express, Coimbatore Express and so on in the service the people of the state. "How can I translate something like Mumbai Express into Tamil? he lamented

A storm in the tea cup perhaps, but it focused attention on Mumbai Express where the inimitable Kamal steals the show as a death wheel rider in a circus lured into a farcical kidnapping plot which goes wrong at every level.

The wrong person is kidnapped, there are goof ups at the ransom delivery and the interplay of relationships. A breezy, casual comedy of errors, the film offers ample opportunities to Kamal and the rest of the cast in this spoof on criminals, the police and life at large.

Mumbai Express for the first time introduces digital technology. Shot in 35 mm canvas and transposed on digital video, it has brought digital technology to mainstream cinema, Manisha Koirala and Om Puri are further attractions, and Puri in the role of a bumbling police officer adds to the hilarity.

A new Rajnikant film is not just a release, it is an event in the South. And when such a film comes after three years, one can understand the expectations of the devoted fans. No wonder tickets were sold out days in advance, and the audience threw coins and confetti on the screen to show their admiration for the superstar.

‘Rajni saar’ had played everything on the screen but in Chandramukhi, he does something different, playing the role of a psychiatrist who had just returned home from the US, Based on a Telugu hit film with the same title, Chandramukhi is a fast-paced thriller with a strong element of the supernatural. The reincarnation theme and transmigration of souls are interwoven in the plot ably directed by P Vasu. The psychiatrist, Saravanan (Rajni) is asked to handle a difficult case where Ganga, wife of a close friend, on moving into a new house, acts strangely, experiences hallucinations and develops a split personality. Well, the plot unravels the fact that the earlier owner of the house, a dancer named Chandramukhi, was the victim of an unsuccessful romance and met with an unnatural death.

It is a difficult case, but then what can be difficult for Rajni? The super star looks his age in the film but the old flamboyance is still there. As in all Rajni films, Chandramukhi is a one-star attraction and Rajni plays to the gallery, There are no political messages in the film and that should come as some relief. With Nayan Tara and Jyotika in the female leads, there is plenty of glamour in the film. But the message is clear, King Rajni is back. His legion of fans can not ask for more.