Ponmagal Vandhal review: A dull courtroom drama

Ponmagal Vandhal review: A dull courtroom drama

Film: Ponmagal Vandhal

Language: Tamil

Director: JJ Fredrick

Cast: Jyothika, R Parthiban, Pratap K Pothan, K Bhagyaraj and Thiagarajan

Ratings: 2/5

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

All those who are disappointed with ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ shouldn’t ask this popular question: so what was all the hype about?

Because the film’s promotional content didn’t promise anything extraordinary. Instead, ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ made a lot of noise for its decision to release directly on an OTT platform, triggering discussions on how more films in India could snub theatres due to the COVID-19 crisis.

‘Ponmagal Vandhal’, by debutant JJ Fredrick, is a dull ride. Fredrick’s film-making leans on the tested methods. It’s a film steeped in melodramatic excess.  

The Jyothika-starrer is about the reopening of a 15-year-old case of a dead woman, alleged to have murdered many children. The courtroom revenge drama stumbles at every turn it takes.

It’s easy to guess why a rookie lawyer Venba (Jyothika) chooses to take up the case. We know the director will hurl an emotional flashback at us at any moment. But, predictability is the least of the film’s problems.  

The blatant use of sensationalism exposes the film’s lack of freshness. Filmmakers dealing with grim subjects often overlook the power of silence. Poignancy is a great tool to keep us invested in the story.

It’s sad to see the director banking on jaded ideas like a loud news bulletin and insistent TV journalists to drill home the importance of the case. These small treatments to a film tell us a lot about a filmmaker’s skills.

The film’s pace falters despite its two-hour long run time thanks to the clumsy narrative shifts. The story dealing with a killer needed more intensity. ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ needed scenes that shock us.

A comparison with ‘Pink’ is inevitable. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s social thriller worked not just because of the gripping courtroom sequences. Outside the court, ‘Pink’ offered engaging drama and the characters appeared highly real. This is what good writing can do to a film.

In ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’, every character delivers painfully long messages. The ridiculous wordplay inside the court resembles loud street fights.    

Jyothika is fine but it’s Parthiban who is the film’s saving grace. The veteran delivers a delightfully controlled performance that is sure to earn him more meaty roles.

The story, dealing with child sex abuse should have hit us hard. But ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ is lifeless. That’s the film’s biggest mistake.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox