Critic rating: *****2.0 / 5
Ponmagal Vandhal Movie Synopsis: A rookie lawyer leads to the reopening of a notorious 15-year-old case of a dead psychiatrist who is said to have kidnapped and murdered little girls.
Ponmagal Vandhal film review: JJ Fredricks Ponmagal Vandhal was in the news for his makers’ decision to release him directly on an OTT platform (the first high profile Tamil film to do this) and the controversy associated with it. But it only takes a few minutes before we realize that the movers and shakers were only sensible if they chose this path instead of opting for a theatrical release. Because both when writing and when creating this project has a strong TV feeling.
Ponmagal Vandhal is a non-apologetic news film in the form of a courtroom drama that relies solely on the leading actor’s crusader zeal to receive a positive verdict from the audience. Since returning to acting in 36 Vayadhinile in 2015, Jyotika has primarily led projects driven by an embassy, ??and has even brought her Sobriquet wife Samuthirakani. As in the case of the actress, her films are all about the message, with storytelling and crafts being sacrificed. While this may not be too problematic in a film like Raatchasi, this is not the case in this film, mainly because of its genre – courtroom drama.
The film begins with a calm picture of a foggy mountain landscape. But soon the silence is shaken by gunfire. We are told that Jyothi, a North Indian woman, murdered a few young men who were trying to save a girl who had kidnapped her. News reports claim that she is a psycho killer who kidnaps and murders little girls. And we learn that she was shot in a police operation. The film is then cut to 15 years later when Venba (Jyotika), an inexperienced lawyer, manages to get the court to reopen Jyothi’s case and argue her side. Who is she and why is she risking everything, especially when public opinion is against her?
Ponmagal Vandhal is decidedly lackluster when it comes to courtroom dramas. Instead of fiery dialogues and charged arguments between the opposing lawyers, we receive emotional statements that are given as explosive evidence. To top it off, Fredrick even gives us shots of people in the courtroom wiping their tears when they hear the lead’s heartfelt speech. But a few lines make their mark – Udal reedhiya thunburuthapatta palapaer kitta unmaiya thavira endha saatchiyum irukkadhu. And Ramji’s cinematography brings the backdrop of the mountain station to life, especially when taking night shots. But the narrative is absolutely predictable and leads to a film that is less than convincing at all times. Right from the start, the film reveals its cards that almost every turn is not a surprise and that there are no tensions in the process. The treatment feels superficial, especially since the film deals with a sensitive topic – the sexual abuse of children.
There are a number of supporting characters – Venba’s father Petition Pethuraj (K Bhagyaraj), the opposing lawyer Rajarathinam (Parthiban, whose Parthibanisms scratch in the dialogues due to the sound of the film), a rich and powerful businessman Varadharajan (Thiagarajan) and the principal judge ( Pratap Pothen) – but none of them develop beyond its one-note characteristics. Jyotika, who is allowed to play two roles, gives us seriousness, but that’s not enough to save the overly melodramatic narrative.
Critic rating: *****2.0 / 5