Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee Movie Review: An emotional experience that takes you back to school

Through this story about love, friendship and life, Darbuka Siva delivers an emotional slice-of-life drama that ticks all the right boxes

author_img Bhuvanesh Chandar Published :  22nd January 2022 01:22 PM   |   Published :   |  22nd January 2022 01:22 PM
Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee Movie Review: An emotional experience that takes you

Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee Movie Review: An emotional experience that takes you

"How quickly the years seem to have passed." This line invariably makes its way into coming-of-age dramas. In Darbuka Siva's Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, this line gets said as a passing comment, and yet, with the potency to make you well up. It helps that till then, we are transported back to a simpler time by this film that captures the simple, forgotten details that lead into the chaos of adulthood.

Darbuka Siva transports us to a world in which we all feel like high-school students. When Rahman music was heard over a shared walkman set. When adult films were watched secretively with friends. When a simple 'vaapas' absolved you from all mistakes. The film is set in 1997, and talks of the new batch of 11th-grade students from St Martin's Matriculation Higher Secondary School, who are all still reeling from the vacation hangover. We are first introduced to Vinoth (Kishen Das), Chinese (Harish Kumar), Durai (Sharan Kumar) and Surendhar (Goutham Raj), as they eagerly check the new admissions list to 'reserve' girls. We get simple, cheesy one-liners about physical appearances, but this too is an attempt to capture what passes for humour in the 11th grade. When this gets problematised, Chinese wonders how else a person could be dissed. It's a line that spells innocence.

Director: Darbuka Siva

Cast: Kishen Das, Harish Kumar, Meetha Raghunath, Rahul Kannan

Streaming on: Zee5

Much of this film is about the love story of Vinoth and Rekha (Meetha Raghunath). Though stories about high school romance aren't new, these unique characters and refreshing dialogue writing is a testimony of why love stories are undying and universal. Interestingly, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee isn't just about these two; their story is just one of many in the film. The film, in fact, establishes this during the very first scene. Surendhar (Su, as he is called) tells Vinoth that he is not the hero and that they are not the hero's friends. Chinese is the eccentric dolt everyone loves; Catherine (Purva) the ever-moody teenager Chinese tries to win over. High school isn't a magical time for everyone, and so, we also get a well-written subplot that deals with bullying and homophobia. Richard bullies Francis (Rahul Kannan), and these scenes might trigger victims of bullying and harassment, especially those with a queer identity. Though the story follows many subplots, Vinoth can be seen as the protagonist as his actions anchor the timeline.

Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee has a striking conflict, and the biggest surprise here is that the director himself appears, playing an unexpected character. It's a great addition and he serves to bridge two timelines and tell us from a celestial point of view that the first love, as is said in these films, is the 'best love'. Post this pivotal moment, the film jumps to the future when these characters are office-going fathers and mothers meeting for a reunion. From here, the film takes an unexpected route and while individual events are interesting, something goes amiss in how everything comes together. It might have to do with the fact that, unlike the vibrant outdoor school life, we see all these characters within the four walls of a nightclub.

As for the setting, 90s is shown amid the outdoors, and we revisit places like Spencer Plaza and Besant Nagar beach; there's meticulous effort to ensure that nothing out of time spoils the immersion. Perhaps the best scene of this second phase of the film comes when we listen to Vinoth singing the titular 'Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee' track. The situation, the visuals and Darbuka's music are sure to soothe broken souls in love. How the title and the story tie together is another brilliant move.

The climax is a bit of a killjoy, with certain subplots meeting incomplete conclusions, including that of Francis. It seems like there are many untold stories to these characters here, with even the narrator alluding to this. For a film that was so clear in what it wanted to be, it does lack a better, more coherent conclusion.

Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee might be a dream debut for most of its new actors, and their lack of experience helps us buy their performances. Even small nuances, like the changes in their behaviour as adults, come across as the result of evolution. Kishen as Vinoth gives a compelling performance and becomes everything the character is expected to be: A goofy friend of Chinese, a love-torn teenager, a matured musician with no zest for life, and so on. Harish, on the other hand, steals the show as Chinese. He brings his own quirky eccentricities to this beautifully written character and makes you yearn for a friend like him. Actors like Rahul, Purva and Meetha seize the opportunity every time they appear in the frame.

Every now and then, a coming-of-age film like Boys or a Kana Kaanum Kaalangal reminds us of why these stories work so well. Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is the latest example of this. We are Chinese. We are Francis. We are all of them and none of them. It is to Darbuka Siva's credit that he manages to truly take us back to school.