Magalir Mattum’s title credits goes like this — Oorvasi, Bhanupriya and Saranya Ponvannan’s names come together first and then says ‘ivargaludan Jyothika’ (with them Jyothika). Couldn’t have been more apt as the film belongs to the older ladies. However, it is not a documentation of them getting together to complain about their lives. Magalir Mattum is genuinely about these women. It goes beyond the men in their life, the dreams that have been buried or the sacrifices they have had to make. The main strength of Magalir Mattum is the empathy it invokes. Whether it is Gomata (Oorvasi), Rani (Bhanupriya) or Subbu (Saranya), their lives are stories we get to see in our families. But what is fascinating is Bramma’s pick of situations. The familial predicaments of these women are interestingly at odds. If Gomata’s problem is a dead husband and a son in a different country, Subbu and Rani’s qualm is the existence of their husbands. (Subbu has an alcoholic husband and in Rani’s case an indifferent one.) Bramma’s writing will bring flashes of conversations with women of your own family and that is a major asset for the movie.
Magalir Mattum does have its fair share of monologues about and against patriarchy and male chauvinism. But the movie places them smartly and doesn’t dwell extensively around them, to the point where it becomes preachy. The first such scene we get is part of Prabhavathi’s documentary about housewives. The film snaps out of the sermon zone and focuses on practical ways to deal with situations, just like Prabhavathi does after one of her monologues with Rani.
With the kind of projects she is picking up, Jyothika’s second innings is honestly more exciting than her first. As a matter of fact, Subbu and Rani’s character could have easily been the later years of Vasanthi Tamilselvan (Jo’s character from 36 Vayathinile). In Magalir Mattum, she is on the other side, the catalyst to the proceedings and she is perfect. Oorvasi, Bhanupriya and Saranya give some fabulous performances; Oorvasi’s one liners are just brilliant. It is a pity we don’t get to see them on screen more often. Full marks to Bramma for some brilliant casting. (Even their younger versions look close enough to their older counterparts.)
What juts out is the geographical placement of the characters and a screenplay that sags a bit in places – thanks to a few ‘placed sequences’. Such as the interaction between the Army officer and Rani’s son. Also, Bhanupriya’s story is set in Agra when it could have easily happened in any city. It feels like the sequence was placed there just to have Prabhavati’s one-liner about Taj Mahal. (It is a tomb for a woman who delivered 14 children and died before she was 38.) Similarly, there is no logical backing to Saranya’s Telugu background. But in fairness, the film uses the locales well visually. Cinematographer Manikandan S, who also shot Bramma’s first movie Kuttram Kadithal, comes up with some brilliant work. If it is a shot of church’s reflection on a rear view mirror in Kuttram Kadithal, it is Saranya’s introduction sequence in Magalir Mattum. The camera just silently follows her, capturing her frustration and acceptance of the treatment she is meted out.
We all have faced moments where our mothers preach, annoy and complain. But there are also several moments of happiness and love and at the end of the day, you love them. Magalir Mattum is like that. Go watch it and take your mom along too, you won’t regret it.