Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee - A pleasant throwback to adolescence in the 90s!
A Walkman (with an additional set of batteries in your pocket), a tape recorder with an antenna that you kept meddling as a toy, a hand video game that was a prized possession and the school computer lab that was a novelty. Does any of this ring a bell to you? Then, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is a film that could stir up a whole lot of nostalgia for you. When slam books were a thing (I don’t know if they still are), when power going off and a video cassette playing an adult movie getting stuck in the VCR was your biggest issue, when your biggest doubt was if one drop of male discharge was equivalent to hundred drops of blood and most importantly, when ‘main point’ was a part of your vocabulary – Welcome to the 90s!
Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is split into almost two exact halves and the first one is set predominantly within the premises of St.Martin’s Matriculation Higher Secondary school in Chennai. Not the Chennai that reminds you of the Phoenix Mall or the Express Avenue for hanging out but the Chennai where Spencer Plaza, Music World and Anna Tower were the hotspots. The focus is on the lives of a handful of students who have just passed their 10th board exams and the year is 1997. This half of the film that ends with their farewell party in 1999, gets almost everything right and is one incredible stretch showcasing the school life of the millennials. The film captures the essence of this decade without glorifying it. The film breaks no new ground with the premise but what it does with these school portions is a joy to behold.
Sweet is how you would define most aspects of Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee and this includes the performance of the cast. They really do a splendid job in these school portions. There isn’t really a scene to be singled out but the fact that you really believe that everyone here is actually in the 15 to 17 range is what makes the film tick. Many a time, this could have easily come off as adults trying to put in an innocent performance but that never happens in the film. The central romance between Vinoth (Kishen Das) and Rekha (Meetha Raghunath) really works and the two actors make it adorable. Harish Kumar as Chinese and Goutham CSV as Su are two others who stand out.
The second half of the film is where things start falling apart a little. The characters are now probably in their 30s and meet for a reunion. We get to know where each of them stands in their lives. The comedy which worked so well earlier, comes across as forced now. The performances don’t seem as seamless as before. The new characters (husbands, wives and fiancés) come across as caricatures at times. There is also an intention to drive home a message about the LGBT community. But the writing seems convenient and we really don’t buy into the change of heart of the Richard character. But there are redeeming aspects as well. Most importantly, we are still invested with the key characters (Vinoth, Rekha and Chinese) and the portions involving them remain a notch above. The climax works in one way because we are rooting for Vinoth and Rekha to be together but the fantasy ploy to get them together is a mixed bag. Unlike Oh My Kadavule, where this was a major plot point, the fantasy angle here works as a quick fix and robs us of an emotional pay off.
Darbuka Siva’s directorial debut is a sweet film that keeps things extremely simple and will work as a very personal throwback for those who had their childhood or adolescence in the 90s.