Starring Nayanthara in the titular role, Mookuthi Amman has been produced by Ishari K Ganesh and follows the life of “Engels” Ramaswamy played by Balaji himself, a God-fearing simpleton and journalist from Nagercoil who feels hard done by in life. Lady luck as it were has not been kind to his family consisting of his mother (Urvashi), grandfather (Mouli) and 3 younger sisters, who after being abandoned by their father lead a life wrought by struggles and disappointment. A chance visit to Mookuthi Amman’s dilapidated temple causes Ramaswamy to pour his heart out to their family deity who heeds his call and miraculously appears before him (Nayanthara). What follows is an enlightening lesson about the true meaning of faith and devotion and the dangers of materialistic desires. In a parallel narrative, Mookuthi Amman and Ramaswamy tackle and thwart a charlatan godman, Bhagavathi Baba (Ajay Ghosh) who’s evil agenda threatens to spread across the nation.
A jolly ride with a relevant and meaningful message
R J Balaji, judging from his previous outings as an actor, is someone who works best in a lighthearted milieu while giving us concepts to contemplate on. As first time director along with N J Saravanan, he adheres to his strong suit by giving us a narrative that is humorous and entertaining while goading us to think beyond the surface. Through his simple but impactful dialogues, Balaji makes insightful observations about different aspects of faith that stick a chord. He talks about the perils of a fear-induced devotion to God, a blind belief in age-old superstitions that detract us from realities, our inherent selfishness in assuming that God will fulfil all our wishes however shallow and our trust in the many self-proclaimed godmen whose false promises and ulterior motives are lost to many of us in the mass hysteria. Above all, it stresses the need for wholehearted surrender to and belief in God in the most basic form and manner devoid of hidden agendas. The actor-director touches upon all these issues without weighing the audience down and instead uses a fun-filled approach to his content. While the second half does head down a predictable path with a few convenient threads thrown in, Balaji gives us a “masala” climax that is slick without being preachy and that’s a credit to his skills as a filmmaker.
A resplendent Nayanthara and a strong ensemble cast anchor the story
In what is a brilliant casting coup, Nayanthara as Mookuthi Amman is perfect and ethereal in a role that she does full justice to. It is never easy to portray a larger than life figure leaves alone a revered Goddess, and the actor does a stellar job with her arresting presence on screen. Particularly enjoyable to witness is the easy camaraderie and fun banter between Balaji’s Ramaswamy and Mookuthi Amman which gives the viewers a positive vibe that God is indeed accessible to all. Balaji in his typical restless avatar is a perfect foil to Nayanthara’s dignified approach and the contrasts work very well. Urvashi is a hoot as Ramaswamy’s mother who hides behind superstitions and assumptions to cover her emotional burdens. She is especially funny in the Tirupathi segments and showcases her emotional depth later on. Ajay Ghosh as Bhagavathi Baba, though caricatured, is appropriately intimidating. Someone his best scenes that elicit quite a few laughs are the ones where Balaji takes a scathing dig at Nityananda. Veteran actor Mouli doesn’t get too much screen space but makes his pedigree felt in the few chances he gets.
The lush Nagercoil landscape is a sight to behold
One of the biggest pluses of Mookuthi Amman is the brilliant cinematography by Dinesh Kannan who captures the rustic brilliance of Nagercoil and its surroundings through his lenses. Sweeping through acres of greenery, water bodies and temples that are quintessential to the land, he gives us a riot of colours that enhance the narrative to a different level. Through the visuals, we can truly get a sense of the “ smell of the soil” that is also an important part of the story as a whole. Mention must also be made about the music composed by Girish G that has a good mix of soul-stirring devotional melodies and mass rural numbers.
WATCH OR NOT
Mookuthi Amman has all the prerequisites of a complete commercial entertainer that also reveals some important truths about how we perceive God and devotion. Above all its relatable, jolly and fun and that’s more than enough for a perfect Diwali weekend!
Director: R J Balaji and N J Saravanan
Cast: Nayanthara, R J Balaji, Urvashi, Mouli, Ajay Ghosh
Music: Girish GL
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar