Back in 2005, when petrol prices were still hovering around ₹40 and when popcorn was still affordable at cinema halls, Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi hit screens.While fans of the Malayalam original, Manichitrathazhu, cried hoarse, the Tamil audiences devoured it. They lapped up Vadivelu’s histronics, danced to ‘Devuda Devuda’ and watched Rajinikanth flick bubble gum and biscuit. ‘Enna Koduma Saravana’, a dialogue from the film, crept into everyday conversations. At Chennai’s Shanti Theatre, the film was screened for 888 days straight.
In 2023, a year when India has conquered the moon thanks to Chandrayaan-3, the moon-faced girl (Chandramukhi) makes a comeback. Director P Vasu is still at the helm of affairs, but Rajinikanth’s gone, and we get Raghava Lawrence instead. Thankfully, Vasu wastes no time to set things in context but jumps straight into the conflict that surrounds the film: a family has multiple problems and they’re wondering what to do about it. Their house is as lavish as the one we saw in Vijay’s Varisu earlier this year, but there are still issues: a learned man feels that it is because the family hadn’t visited their kuladeivam (ancestral temple) for a long time.
They decide to make a trip, and stay in a palace nearby – the one that featured prominently in the first installment – and the familiar beats of Chandramukhi are back. Enter Pandian (Raghava Lawrence), who gets one of the most incredulous opening sequences ever – one in which he rides a bike straight into a bus and comes back without a scratch, but clutching two children who were held hostage inside the vehicle by a few bad guys.
Pandian has a vague connection to the big, fat family in trouble, but he soon becomes a part of them, and jumps straight into problem-solving mode. While there are spooky elements inside the house, the temple they intend to visit has some sort of a curse. Can Pandian solve them?
Watch the film to find out, but, much like the 2005 original, this one too follows a template: scenes that have happiness and spookiness followed by each other. A dark moody ‘pei’ scene is followed by a scene bathed in light and happiness. Cold vibes change into happy times within a few minutes. It is refreshing to see Vadivelu being goofy all over again, especially after the sombre but impactful outing in the recent Maamannan. There are two sequences when he has lengthy conversations with Pandian that are bound to bring a smile to audiences who might have watched the 2005 original in theatres.
Chandramukhi 2 (Tamil)
Director: P Vasu
Cast: Raghava Lawrence, Kangana Ranaut, Vadivelu, Radhika Sarathkumar
Duration: 170 minutes
Storyline: The Vettaiyan v/s Chandramukhi battle resumes, with bigger stakes
Raghava Lawrence can dance, and be repeatedly proves it, in both fast numbers and slow folk numbers, but he contributes little with presence in the first half, other than trying out some Rajinikanth mannerisms. There’s also a lip sync problem, where there seems to be some sort of a delay between his dialogues and the performance. However, he more than makes up for it in the second half when he really comes alive, both in terms of body mannerisms and performance. Maybe he should just do more of this in future films too.
Kangana herself has little to do, except sing a few songs and indulge in a couple of dance sequences. Lakshmi Menon and Radhikaa do what’s expected from them in their portions. Director P Vasu, who also helmed the original, cleverly changes very little in the template that worked in the original. The music recreates the popular ‘RaRa’. Heck, even the windows where the now-popular ‘enna koduma saravana’ was delivered get featured, yet again. MM Keeravani music and sounds hark back to a different time; in this Anirudh-dominated soundscape of Tamil cinema, we could surely use more.
Despite the sense of superficiality and predictability about Chandramukhi 2, there is, atleast, a cocktail of things for audiences to take away. There’s thunderous music, entertaining ghosts and even historical war sequences…all this in a story that is basically just a modern rehash of the 2005 installment starring Rajinikanth.