Mandela is a Tamil comedy drama political satire film written and directed by Madonne Ashwin. The film stars Yogi Babu, Sheela Rajkumar, Sangili Murugan and G. M. Sundar, alongside other cast members.
Mandela is a satire through and through, and a clever one at that. Focusing distinctly on cast and creed divisions and caste-based politics, the movie takes a humorous path through these routes and makes sure we laugh with and at whatever happens in front of us.
The movie starts off with several people squatting to answer nature’s call in the wee hours of the morning and are soon ushered off to a public toiler inauguration event. However, unfortunately, they have to wait for some time since this toilet inauguration results in a “brawl” between the North and South. These two warring clans are led by Rathnam, who is a supposedly upper caste man, and Madhi, who belongs to a lower but powerful caste.
The movie defines prejudices and the entitlement of the upper cast to a T. Mandela, however, gets its name from a villager who, previously, had no right of his own. Played by Yogi Babu, who is absolutely excellent in the role, the movie focuses on the tribulations that he has to go through when he is granted the right to vote in a difficult and tumultuous election and his is the deciding vote that makes or breaks.
The shocking part about Babu’s character in Mandela, however, is how unaffected he is. Yes, everything is shown under a garb of humour but it’s still shocking when you really look at it. Babu’s Mandela is someone whom no one wants to be associated with. He is a barber and is called to clean toilets. He is mostly ignored, exploited and humiliated. However, he does not so much as protest or raise his voice. The conditioning has been such that he is resigned to his life as someone who is insulted on a daily basis. He also doesn’t care about it, he just wants to save enough money to realise his dreams.
Thus, his rise to power is also as pressing, important and engaging to watch. It’s not very melodramatic or even sort of a reckoning. Actually, Mandela’s awakening is anything but that – it’s more subdued and layered, just like director Madonne Ashwin’s writing. He never takes it too far or too seriously. Although the subject matter is pretty serious and can be attributed to the political scenario of Tamil Nadu as well as India, he uses his writing and his actors to paint it in gentler colours, leaving room for interpretation. Every character has a purpose to fulfil and thus they’re all extremely important to the narrative.
The star of the show, however, is Yogi Babu. He carries the film on his shoulders with care and affection and never lets it go haywire. There’s something very homely and caring about his presence and character that really drives the story forward and makes his transformation later on all the more hard-hitting. Additionally, every other actor in the Mandela is great as well and really embodies the current state of the country in small ways.
Summing up: Mandela
Mandela is a must-watch if you’re someone who enjoys satires. It’s brilliantly made and juggles the subject matter well. It will definitely enrage you and make you think, but will also weirdly make you laugh. The film hits the target home, but sometimes, just oh-so-sometimes, it drags just a bit. However, it’s nothing too serious to take you out of the viewing experience.
Mandela is streaming on Netflix.
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