With Mersal, we have got this year’s most engaging mass masala movie. It has a relatable theme even though the medical field has been the target for many films, star power, punch dialogues that double up as political statements, emotional scenes that make us care for its characters, a message that connects with us, colorful visuals, peppy music, and masala moments that keep you cheering for the hero or rather all the actors.
The film begins with the kidnapping of a few individuals and the arrest of Dr Maaran (Vijay), who, the investigating officer Rathnavel (Sathyaraj) believes is the mastermind. As he interrogates the doctor on why he let himself get captured, he learns that it is actually Vetri (Vijay again!), a magician – and a look-alike of Maaran – who has committed these crimes.
How is Vetri connected to Maaran and what does he want?
Taking a leaf out of his guru Shankar’s playbook and a lot of inspiration from masala movies of the yesteryears and based on the dual roles and triple role systems, Atlee has given us a wholly satisfying mass-hero film. And his decision to bring on board Vijayendra Prasad, the writer of Rajamouli’s films, is a masterstroke. The fingerprints of the Baahubali writer can be found in many scenes like in the scene in the flashback portion, where Thalapathy (Vijay for the third time!), the father of Vetri and Maaran, has to save people trapped in a fire. Thalapathy brings down a giant wheel singlehandedly, and it feels like a nod to Baahubali, where Prabhas stops a huge statue from falling down. There is also another distinct Baahubali moment where a child raises its hand even as its father goes down promising the hands of his people will raise up.
Like the masala films that it tries to emulate, the film also has a longer duration. We get two flashbacks, one before the interval, and another post it. Atlee also gives a romantic track each to Vetri and Maaran. But these are just generic ones, but the two actresses, Kajal Aggarwal and Samantha, manage to provide some lighthearted moments in the miniscule time that they get. But the director makes up for it with the romance in the flashback involving Thalapathy and Nithya Menon and comes up with an affecting performance.
The success of any revenge-based masala movie is the effectiveness of its antagonist and it is here that Mersal feels a little underwhelming. Atlee seems to have wanted an antagonist who is suave and sinister, but perhaps because we have only recently seen a terrifically over-the-top SJ Suryah in Spyder, his characterisation of Daniel Arockiaraj here comes across as a rather subdued villain, even though the actor does well.
However, the director doesn’t disappoint when it comes to his hero. He gives all the three characters moments to showcase their heroism (the camera almost worships its subject). We have seen Vijay reel of punch dialogues, dance like a dream and fight effortlessly, but there is a scene where, as Thalapathy, he breaks down, and the actor shows that he can also pull off emotional scenes. When you have a mass hero in full form like Vijay is in the film, how can things go wrong?