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Movie Review: Panchathanthiram (2002) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 79%%79%% 79% (79 votes)
Movie Still Kamalhassan deviates from his usual formula of alternating between serious and comedy movies to follow up Pammal K Sambandham with Panchathanthiram, another comedy caper. The venture finds him reteaming with dialog writer 'Crazy' Mohan and director K.S.Ravikumar, his partners in previous hits Avvai Shanmugi and Tenali. Thankfully, the deviation in formula has not diluted the effectiveness of the comedy provided by the threesome and though a sense of familiarlity pervades many scenes, they come up with another movie that successfully places laughs over logic.

Ramachandramurthy(Kamalhassan), a playboy, finally settles down in matrimony with Mythili(Simran), who is aware of his Casanova ways. A couple of misunderstood incidents later, she splits from him and moves into her parents' house. Ram's foursome of friends(Jayaram, Yugi Sethu, Ramesh Arvind, Sriman), wishing to cheer him up, hook him up with a callgirl Maggie(Ramya Krishnan). Ram wants nothing to do with her but is forced to find ways to cover things up when he finds her murdered in his room. The five friends dispose off the body but things don't stay quiet for too long.

As in most recent Kamalhassan movies, this movie too owes its origins to a Hollywood flick. But unlike Tenali(a virtual remake of What About Bob?), Panchathanthiram simply borrows the setup from Very Bad Things, a violent, dark comedy, and then sets off in a different, purely comic direction. As always, there are a few sequences(like the "munnala-pinnaala" dialogs with the policeman or the increasing damage to the reputation of Sriman's family during the Ugadi function) with belly-aching laughs. But the movie scores over Kamal's other recent comic outings in that it never lets the comic momentum flag with long, unfunny sequences or out-of-place sentiments. When things get bogged down a little, there is always a joke around the corner to save the day.

'Crazy' Mohan once again proves that he writes his best stuff for Kamalhassan with some very funny - even if not memorable - jokes, one-liners, wordplays and silly kadis. He makes us forget that we are dealing with potentially serious issues, like the murder of an innocent woman or the serious ailment of a little boy, with his constant barrage of jokes that hit the mark more often than not. In particular, his knack of exploiting words with multiple meanings("kattikko") and extracting jokes out of everyday phrases("changing gear") always amazes me. The only problem is that during sequences with a string of successful jokes, the aftershocks of the laughter from one joke frequently drown out a couple of the following ones!

But the frequency of recent Kamal-Crazy combinations has led to a sense of familiarity creeping in. The dialogs in many scenes give us a vague feeling of having heard them before and the effectiveness of some scenes is lost since we are able to guess the punchline. There also some lost opportunities which we sense could have been a lot funnier given the material. A prime example is the Ugadi sequence which starts off very funny but tapers out with a weak song without ever reaching the comic heights the situation calls for. The movie is also hampered by a weak climax with an overdose of comic twists & turns, chases and other 'masala' elements.

Kamal been in the game too long to take any false steps. He has aged quite visibly, a fact that is especially apparent during the close-up shots but as always displays great comic timing. Jayaram and Yugi Sethu catch our eye among the four friends. Both Simran and Ramya look great but the comic potential of Urvasi(last seen so hilariously in Thamizh) has been left untapped. Other actors like Sangavi, Ishwarya, Manivannan, Ramesh Khanna and 'Kovai' Sarala have also been wasted. Deva comes up with one catchy tune in Vai Raja Vai... while the lyrics for Ennoda Kaadhal... drop teasing hints about the recent rumors of a romance between Kamal and Simran.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam