Indian superhero films are an interesting genre and a very different breed from American superhero films, which I am thoroughly tired of - Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, whatever man. Take your self-assigned moral values and shove ‘em. From the handful of Indian superhero films I’ve seen, Indian superheroes are essentially Heroes doing their herogiri while wearing a mask and tights.
Mugamoodi almost doesn’t need to be a superhero film. The superhero bits are fun for a while but what makes Mugamoodi a good watch is what would make any Jiiva movie a good watch - action, romance, comedy, and family love.
Jiiva plays Anand aka Bruce Lee, an aimless Chennai youth who spends most of his time either practicing Kung-Fu with his Master (Selvaah) or going out drinking with his buddies. Everything seems just fine and dandy for “Lee,” even if his father thinks he should get a job. When daddy starts yelling, Lee just peaces out to his grandfather’s (Girish Karnad) workshop on the roof of the building. (He has a ROBOT!) But Lee’s life gets turned topsy-turvy when he meets Shakthi (debutate Pooja Hegde).
See, the thing is Shakthi really hates rowdies... and people who litter. And her first impression of Lee is a really bad one. What is a love-struck Lee to do? Dress up like a superhero and try to impress her!
Meanwhile, there is a series of violent robberies in town and the police are desperately trying to catch the criminals. Will Lee get involved? (Spoiler alert: Yes.)
The bottom line is that Mugamoodi is about two-thirds of a great masala film and one-third tired American-style superhero film. Let me get the bad out of the way first. Post-interval the film takes a dive as we drearily plod along as Lee gets an outfit, figures out who the bad guy is, and learns some backstory. It’s not until the final confrontation that the film picks back up again - not in small part thanks to the wonderful Girish Karnad and his gadgets.
One of the things that I love about masala is the contrast in tone that you get throughout the film. Put comedy and pathos side-by-side and each feels more significant. During the dreary march towards the final confrontation, I kept hoping something would show up to break the mood - an item, a comedian, Shakthi... It got to the point where the girls sitting in the back row would giggle like crazy every time Jiiva appeared in moonlit shadow just because it was too much.
But if you can get past that, Mugamoodi is otherwise a very fun film.
The first half is just joy layered upon joy. Jiiva is charming and does his Kung-Fu convincingly enough for me. Lee’s pack of friends are great as are all the random rowdies and citizens Lee gets into confrontations with. I swear that I recognize at least one as one of Vikram’s pals in Rajapattai. Narain is strictly okay as the villain. He chews the scenery, which is entertaining, but his menace and fighting skills are not really up to par. I would have loved to see Vidyut Jamwal kicking some ass. And I can’t say enough good things about Pooja Hegde, who has a great career in front of her. There is one scene where she rides down the street on her motorbike with all the swagger of Cartman when he becomes a police officer in that one episode of South Park...
I hadn’t seen anything Mysskin had directed before but I was quite impressed! Everything felt really dynamic - Lee flopping on the floor in petulant despair; slow-motion pepper spraying from Shakthi; whole groups of rowdies doing synchronized Kung-Fu... And the song picturizations were divine. I wish there had been a few more songs and a few less scenes of Jiiva standing on a building in a cape.
If you get a chance, I would recommend checking this one out. Go with some friends and make sure to get snacks at the interval so you can chat while Mugamoodi broods. That’s what the crowd I saw the film with did, and everybody seemed to have a great time!
Unfortunately there isn't much more I can say without spoiling the plot but maybe I'll re-watch Kanthaswamy and compare-contrast.