Critic’s Rating : 3.0 / 5
Manmatha Leelai Movie Review : Venkat Prabhu’s quickie is a fun romp with an unsatisfactory climax
The plot of Manmadha Leelai is intercut between events that happen in two time-periods. In 2010, Sathya (Ashok Selvan), a college student, invites himself to the home of Poorni (Samyuktha Hegde, who pulls off a tricky role pretty well), a girl who he’s been chatting up online. With her ‘father’ (Jayaprakash) going out of town, he plots to get laid. Meanwhile, in 2020, the same Sathya, who is now a top fashion designer, invites Leela (Riya Suman, effective as a femme fatale), an IT worker who has wrongly ended up at his door, into his home. His wife Anu (Smruthi Venkat, playing Miss Goody Two Shoes yet again) has gone to visit her parents with their little daughter, and Sathya sees it as the perfect opportunity for a one-night stand.Venkat Prabhu shows us how these two nights unravel for his protagonist , cutting from one even to the other alternately. The smooth editing (by Venkat Raajen), informed by the confident writing, ensures that there are no jerks in this non-linear narration, with scenes flowing from one timeline to the other in a smooth manner. Venkat Prabhu writes these scenes in such a way that they mirror each other. Both these events happen on a rainy night, involve drinking, and a change of clothes. As in adult comedies, the gaze is distinctly male. Sathya is built up as the predator, who skillfully makes his moves to entrap the women and achieve what he wants — sex. Tamilazhagan’s camera travels all over the two women’s bodies in a lecherous manner, capturing every curve and flash of skin. And the tone of Premgi Amaren’s somewhat insistent background score is celebratory in these moments, with nadaswaram and mridangam, reflecting Sathya’s glee. That said, the first half is more or less a fun romp.The film reaches its intermission point when the family member who is away returns unannounced in both these timelines, leaving us with an edge-of-the-seat situation – will Sathya get caught? Venkat Prabhu does continue in the same playful tone, giving us tense situations in which his protagonist comes so close to being exposed. And we begin to wonder how the director might tie up these tracks, with a wide range of possible directions he can take. He even gives us a lip-smacking twist midway that turns the tables on his protagonist, puncturing his ego, in one of these timelines.Unfortunately, the director — who pulled off an even more complex narrative with Maanaadu — chooses the road often travelled here. What was a tense adult comedy turns into an unimaginative crime movie with a convenient ending and a predictable twist. Even tonally, the film becomes something flashy and larger-than-life. And it is left to Ashok Selvan — who is terrific as a smooth-talking womaniser single-mindedly working towards getting his target, making his frustrations feel funny to us — to carry this transformation. The actor tries, but with the writing letting him down, he barely manages to prevent this quickie from reaching it’s climax on an unsatisfactory note.