Madhura Raja Review - The King Returns for a New Adventure
Back in 2010 Pokkiri Raja grabbed a lot of attention; it gave a super start to the career of Vysakh who made his debut with the mass entertainer. Modelled on the lines of many larger than life Tamil films, the film was of course colourful and loud but entertaining too. Thankfully not a mindless action film, it had a good balance of emotion and comedy as well. Mammootty’s titular role may have its share of detractors but it has definitely gone on to become popular over the years. Another interesting aspect of the film was the way Vysakh took time to delay the entry of Mammootty in the film, initially allowing Prithviraj to hog the limelight, before eventually settling down to play the second fiddle. After the astounding success of Pulimurugan everyone was curious to know what would Vysakh come up with next, after all how much bigger would he go on to aim? The announcement of Madhura Raja as his forthcoming film was not totally surprising, the set up was in place already and here was Vysakh’s chance to give another blockbuster, this time with Mammootty in the lead.
For some strange reason the makers have been particular in insisting that Madhura Raja is not a sequel to Pokkiri Raja, except for Mammootty returning once again to play Raja. There is a change of location this time, a picturesque little village nestled among the backwaters. Madhavan Nair (Nedumudi Venu) is deputed to look into a complaint raised by the local village school against a bar which is situated in the vicinity. The bar belongs to V. R. Nadeshan (Jagapati Babu), the local bigwig who runs all the important businesses, both legal and illegal in the surroundings. When the going gets very tough for Madhavan Nair and the others around him it’s obviously time for Raja to come to the rescue. Pokkiri Raja is now Madhura Raja, very much a big shot and also an aspiring politician. The rest of the tale is all about how Raja takes on Nadeshan and the clash between the two titans.
It doesn’t too much time for the audience to understand that this is indeed a sequel to Pokkiri Raja, the references are far too many to ignore. But Vysakh and his writer Udaykrishna have thankfully brought out the links in an easy going manner and without pushing it too hard in front of us. As for insisting on the point that it’s not a sequel, well the only logical reason for that could be that the makers did not want the audience to go in with any set expectations, not that they have succeeded entirely in the process. Here too Mammootty makes a late entry, it’s almost like a signature move by now planned by Visakh. Prithviraj (his absence actually being explained surprisingly with a tongue in cheek reference to Lucifer) makes way for Tamil actor Jai, who makes use of the initial screen time to indulge in action and romance, only to willingly play the supporting anchor to Mammootty later. The funny moments work to an extent, including a reference to an iconic scene from Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum ensuring that there’s some life in the film. Mammootty himself doesn’t allow us to take him seriously, thanks especially to his constant dialogue delivery in poor English.
The post interval portions take the route of a political battle, references being thrown to the political scenarios both in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Considering its election time it’s not a bad move at all. While Peter Hein’s action sequences are definitely not jaw dropping as seen in Pulimurugan, the sequences where a maniacal Nadeshan lets loose his ferocious dogs on people he wants dead have been shot extremely well, credit also due for the same to DOP Shaji Kumar. In fact Shaji Kumar’s camera work makes good use of the scenic locales without making it too obvious, one of the better aspects of the film. There’s nothing to talk about Gopi Sundar’s contribution, none of the songs (including the Sunny Leone item number) are memorable. And the constant use of the “Raja Raja Raja” theme song of sorts in the background is both funny and grating on the ears. The film has a lot of female characters, portrayed by some popular actresses but strangely none of them get adequate screen presence barring Anusree who seems to be forever angry.
Nedumudi Venu, Siddique, Vijayaraghavan, Salim Kumar, Charan Raj and Suraj Venjaramoodu (seen in just one scene) are there just to reprise their characters from the previous film. Jai gets ample footage but is unable to be as impactful as Prithviraj was in Pokkiri Raja. Jagapati Babu by now is a pro at playing such villainous roles, but makes for a good opponent for Mammootty. And then we finally come to the leading man himself, Mammootty who easily sinks back into the character of Raja once again. He has a blast playing the titular role, taking a dig at himself and looking as charming as he’s always been. The film ends with an obvious reference to a continuation of the franchise, is that necessary or not is a question that’s best left unanswered for now. For now all we can certainly say is that Madhura Raja is no Pulimurugan, but it does stay faithful to the base set up by Pokkiri Raja, whether one likes it or not.
Madhura Raja sees Vysakh and Mammootty coming back together in an attempt to make a franchise with a popular character, the end result being neither praise worthy nor cringe worthy.