Zee5’s Nenjam Marappathillai Review: Good vs Evil

Nenjam Marappathillai is a Tamil-language horror thriller film directed by Selvaraghavan and starring Regina Cassandra, Nandita Swetha and S. J. Surya, alongside other cast members.

I think the most interesting aspect of Nenjam Marappathillai is the interactions that Mariam, our protagonist who can do no bad, has with the Sister of the orphanage where she grew up in. The movie shows these the least and the moments are taken away too soon.

When Mariam gets an opportunity to look after the only son of a well-to-do family, who have agreed to pay them a shocking Rs 65,000, the Sister is hesitant, as was I. As someone who listens to a lot of true crime, I know what that sum of money might bring with it. However, Mariam doesn’t think anything of it and just chalks it up to them wanting her to help cook and clean. The Sister is a bit apprehensive but Mariam blows her concerns away. If only she had more practical knowledge.

Anyway, Nenjam Marappathillai is a horror movie. However, what I hate about it is how much the movie portrays its characters as black or white. Mariam is white – so devastating so, in fact, that it’s almost difficult to look at her without sunglasses. On the other hand, our antagonist is Ramaswamy, and you know that he is bad from the moment he is introduced. David Guetta’s Little Bad Girl is blasting on the speakers (I presume) and he’s cutting his nose hair (in uncomfortable close-up) and shaving his entire face – twice. He then moves on to choosing what he’s gonna wear and rattles off some high-end brand names.

Listen, these aren’t inherently bad things. If anything, I’d love to own some Prada. But Nenjam Marappathillai shifts focus from “good to bad” so drastically that you cannot help but realise that “oh this is supposed to be bad”. I don’t like characters who are this one-dimensional. Sure, there are monsters out there, but come on.

However, Ramaswamy does have a little more than Mariam. He doesn’t want anyone to remember his rags-to-riches story – if anything, he himself wants to forget the fact. So, his actions till now give a bit of perspective, which I like. He creates this illusion in his head about a perfect life and a perfect family – but the reality hits him when he’s driving away from home. His interactions with his father-in-law, who owns the business, is also quite… comical, I’d say. It’s just, Nenjam Marappathillai overdoes it with Ramaswamy’s character to such an extent that it doesn’t seem real.

Anyway, the moment Ramaswamy takes a look at Mariam and her “virginal beauty”, she falls for her, more so when he sees how good he is with Rishi. It could’ve been a harmless crush but hey, he took that and multiplied a thousand by trying to sexually assault her while she had his sleeping son on her lap. Dad of the year.

Ramaswamy’s character feels more like a child who hasn’t matured past the age of 10 rather than a fully functional adult. If anything, he’s an embodiment of what it will be like if a child was allowed to do what he pleases without any adult supervision, times 1,000. Nenjam Marappathillai is good at showcasing that sentiment of entitlement that people have and how Ramaswamy’s psyche goes from trying to win her affection to forcefully taking it at any cost.

Around Nenjam Marappathillai’s halfway mark we see the movie take the more supernatural avenue. This is where it loses me completely. Before this part, the movie was making cohesive sense; the part when Mariam is raped off-screen with Christ’s image shown intercut with it was clever. But after that, the movie started to throw in too much and there’s just absolutely so much going on, along with it becoming a black comedy. I wouldn’t mind the second aspect, but the movie really goes for a spin after that and it’s not interesting anymore.

Performances in Nenjam Marappathillai movie are fine, although I wish Ramaswamy wasn’t such an over-the-top character. S. J. Suryah’s performance is great though and he seems to totally embody the heartless, sorta sociopathic a-hole that his character is. Regina Cassandra as Mariam is great too as the can’t-do-any-bad Mariam. And I didn’t mention her character above but Nandita Swetha as Swetha is delightful as the hateful and bitter wife of the patriarch. Both the members of this family seem to be very unhinged and it’s great to watch the actors portraying that with ease.

Summing up: Nenjam Marappathillai

Nenjam Marappathillai
Zee5's Nenjam Marappathillai Review: Good vs Evil 4

Nenjam Marappathillai does well with the themes of good and bad that it tries to portray, atleast in the first half. However, it takes those themes to an uncomfortable extent in the second and does something that confused and overburdened me. I liked where the themes were going with the characters and even understood, after a point, what their psyches were like. However, without a proper landing, all of that becomes meaningless.

Nenjam Marappathillai is streaming on Zee5.

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Nenjam Marappathillai delivers a promising first half but goes off the rails in the second.

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