Streaming on Amazon Prime
Unprecedented circumstances call for unconventional actions. Ponmagal Vandhal is the first mainstream Tamil film to gain a direct release on the OTT platform made its much-awaited streaming entry today on Amazon Prime. When a bright young lawyer Venba, played by Jyothika, decides to clear the name of a psychopathic serial killer Jothi who was accused of kidnapping and brutally killing hapless children, it creates a furore among the horrified citizens of the town. Yet, encouraged by her father, a small-time lawyer himself (Bhagyaraj) she proceeds to defend the case in spite of being vilified and accused by all. As the case gains heat in court with a prominent opposing lawyer (Parthiban) waiting to tear into her, skeletons of the past unravel to shake the core of justice and turn it on its head.
A twisted tale
Right from the outset, Ponmagal Vandhal sets the tone for a gripping courtroom drama. Debutant director and writer J. J. Fredrick cleverly lays down the gnarled threads of the narrative one by one, untangles them weaves them into a fabric that is compelling and gripping. Some expected twists lay the foundation for many unanticipated surprises that are approached competently and culminate in a climax worthy of praise. Further, the courtroom segments are filmed with a certain dignity devoid of the usual melodrama that is associated with courtroom dramas.
Casting coup delivers and how!
Any movie with an envious team of stalwarts such as Ponmagal Vandhal is already a recipe for success. Jyothika as Venba has a simmering rage and an ingrained strength that she channels beautifully to bring out the nuances of her character. Having done her fair share of female-centric roles, she proves her worth with a powerful performance. K. Bhagyaraj, as her father Pethuraj, shows his pedigree with a heartfelt performance that is organic and sensitive. Similarly, Prathap Pothen as the judge and R Parthiban as the lawyer are perfectly cast and do not miss a beat in this well-made drama. Thiagarajan, as the shady businessman Varadarajan, puts his weight behind the story as well with only Pandiarajan being shortchanged in a rather insignificant role but nevertheless makes his presence felt.
Justice is not blind
Ponmagal Vandhal most importantly highlights the horrific injustices meted out to women and children in the form of kidnapping, rape, and murder. The film delivers a strong message about these atrocities and the eventual cover-ups that deny justice to the victims. Though not visually disturbing or graphic, the film does not sugarcoat these unsettling realities.
WATCH OR NOT
In just a little over 2 hours, Ponmagal Vandhal is riveting and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It is a brave debut for J. J. Fredrick who directs with a confident hand and extracts commendable performances from his talented ensemble. Furthermore, the lens work that sweeps across the serene and scenic landscape of the Nilgiris is also a highlight. Definitely a film that lives up to its hype.
Director: J. J. Fredrick
Writer: J. J. Fredrick
Cast: Jyothika, K Bhagyaraj, R Parthiepan, Prathap Pothen, Pandiarajan, Thiagarajan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Language: Tamil, English with English subtitles