The most obvious aspect of Chandramukhi is Rajnikanth's eagerness to deliver a hit
that will erase all memories of the Baba debacle. The film's
story cannot immediately be labelled as a trademark Rajni story(in other words, a story
revolving around him!) and so has a wider appeal. He has taken extreme care about his appearance,
looking both younger and brighter and is always seen in great outfits. There are also no dialogs
with political overtones, he doesn't even smoke and there are very few self-hyping
or philosophical lines. But this merging of a woman-centric story and the Rajni image is not
always successful. Coming after Baba, Chandramukhi is definitely a step in the right
direction but not as big a step as hoped for.
Legend has it that Chandramukhi, a dancer, was coveted by the king of the land and kept in the
Vettayapuram palace. When the king realized that Chandramukhi was having an affair with a dancer
Gunasekharan, he had both of them killed and her unfulfilled spirit is supposed to be haunting
the mansion now. Senthilnathan(Prabhu), with his wife Ganga(Jyothika), decides to buy the Vettayapuram
mansion and move into it though he is warned against it by his family because of the mansion's
past. Strange things begin happening and attempts are made on Senthil's life once he moves in
and Saravanan(Rajnikanth), Senthil's friend and a psychiatrist, begins investigating. Meanwhile
everyone begins suspecting that Durga(Nayantara), the gardener's daughter, is behind it all.
Chandramukhi is paced quite erratically. The first half is breezy enough with emphasis on
comedy and just hints of something more serious and thrilling down the road. Vadivelu is the butt
of jokes on two threads - he is scared of ghosts in the mansion and is eternally suspicious of his
wife's attraction for Rajni(Rajni safely declares his intention at his first meeting with her
itself). Though the latter track is a bit crude, both threads are quite funny with Vadivelu's
facial expressions and body language right on the mark. His addressing Rajni as Maappu
leads to one very funny line and his actions are very funny when he is caught alone in the mansion.
But Vasu lets the movie flounder in the second half by not cranking up the pace. The story barely
moves forward for awhile and many sequences seem repetitive. Both comedy tracks continue but they
unnecessary and are not as funny since they intrude into the main story. It becomes increasingly
clear that several of the characters are unnecessary and so scenes with them make us fidget in our
seats. Some editing in the hour after the intermission would have gone a long way in making the
movie gripping. There is also a twist in the proceedings here but all the pre-release publicity
about the movie and the information about the roles played by the stars make this grand revelation
by Rajnikanth rather anti-climactic.
It is a little odd seeing Rajnikanth utter all the medical mumbo-jumbo as he explains everything.
His longwinded explanation is more than a bit confusing and also leads to some loopholes in the
story. But Chandramukhi ends with a bang because of a strong climax. The Ra Ra...
song works very well on screen with the lakalaka... bit(uttered by two characters) adding
quite an effect. The scenes from the past are captivating with Rajni obviously enjoying himself
and the way the main issue is resolved is satisfying.
Rajni's aging is evident only in a few close-ups and a lot of credit for his young(er) look goes
to his make-up man and costume designer. His trademark speed is definitely lost but the fact is
masked by the simple, light steps(which still look good when coordinated with the group dancers) in
the dance sequences and wire-fu techniques in the two stunt sequences. Jyothika has worked hard and is
good in the meaty role though she seems a little over the top occasionally. Prabhu stays in the
sidelines but his emotional performance towards the end evokes guffaws. Nayantara looks homely but
not exceptionally pretty. Vadivelu comes up with one of his best performances but Nasser overacts
in playing for laughs.
Vidyasagar makes Rajni fans happy while at the same time delivering some variety. But picturization
of songs is average and uninspired. Apart from the effective Ra Ra... sequence, Annanoda
Paattu... is energetically picturized though Vasu should have stuck to picturizing it in the
engagement hall(with all men in the visually appealing white dhoti-shirt combination) rather than
moving it to the cheesy club setting with all those women. Rajni looks his best in the pleasing,
folksy Athinthom... though. Even for viewers used to seeing foreign locations in song
sequences, fthe locations(in Turkey) for the Konja Neram... song are breathtaking.