Mandela (2021) is a comedy-drama film starring Yogi Babu, about the sufferings of outcasts and the power of universal suffrage. Mandela impresses you with an uncommon plot and good acting by Yogi but falls short due to a mediocre screenplay that runs too long. It gets a ‘Raw’ rating from Mangoidiots. The film is available on Netflix.
‘Smile’ aka இளிச்சவாயன், played by the Mr “Curly hairs” Yogi Babu is the local village barber – an orphan who works and stays under a banyan tree. Hailing from an unknown caste, everyone in the village uses his services, yet treats him shabbily. As the two rival groups (half-brothers from different castes) battle it out to become the next village panchayat president, Mandela’s individual vote becomes crucial which leads to his fortunes getting changed forever. How and why is told in a satirical format.
The opening scene features fist-blows between the two rival caste groups in the village over which caste-person will excrete first in the newly constructed public toilet was hilarious and sad. The director right away communicates the undercurrents of the village and transports us there. The sequence leading to ‘Smile’ wanting to get a savings account in the local post office was natural and convincing. The local postmaster Thenmozhi realizing that ‘Smile’ doesn’t even have a proper name, names him after the Nobel Laureate Mr Nelson Mandela. Following this, she also helps him to get an Election Commission’s Voter ID, which plays a central role in the movie.
‘Smile’ is kind of an outcast in the village, he is not even allowed to enter any of the houses in the village through the front door –Yogi Babu has brought to life the humiliation and the pain felt by Mandela’s character profoundly. Acting as Thenmozhi, Sheela Rajkumar has followed her brilliant performance in To Let (2019) with yet another touching one in Mandela (2021). Veteran Sangili Murugan has played the Periya Ayya, the incumbent Village President. The boy who plays the sidekick to Mandela has done his role well.
Had Director Madonne Ashwin utilized Yogi Babu better and added a bit more humor, and, he got the running time to around 100 minutes & not the 140 minutes the film could’ve been more enjoyable. All said, Mandela is still worth a watch.