P Vasu churned out many beloved hits during his heyday in the 90s. Collaborating multiple times with Rajinikanth, his crowning achievement is 2005’s smash hit comedy-horror film ‘Chandramukhi,’ a remake of the 1993 Malayalam psychological horror film ‘Manichitrathazhu.’ Vasu had already remade the film for the Kannada audience, and wished to repeat his success. Integrating the biggest star of the industry into a lean psychological horror caused alterations to the genre, which resulted in a masala treatment with an actual flying Rajinikanth knocking a cup of tea out of his friend’s hand. Despite this, the film saw resounding success due to the comedy scenes featuring Vadivel at the top of his game, the twist in the final act and Jyothika’s typecast-breaking performance. Vasu directed a sequel for the Kannada version and also a Telugu version in 2010, the former becoming a hit and the latter receiving negative reviews. Hoping to recreate the massive success of the Tamil film, Vasu has recruited Raghava Lawrence and Kangana Ranaut as Vettaiyan and Chandramukhi respectively. ‘Chandramukhi’ is the film which kickstarted the comedy-horror trend in Tamil cinema, and so it is fitting that Vasu joins hands with the biggest beneficiary of the genre.
The film follows another family staying at Vettaiyan’s palace, wishing to visit their ancestral temple to alleviate the cursed energy that haunts them. Vadivel’s Murugesan is the only primary character to return from the first film, again providing comedic relief throughout. Raghava Lawrence’s Pandian is the guardian of the grandchildren of matriarch Ranganayaki (played by Radhika Sarathkumar); their mother was ostracised for marrying into a different religion. This reunion at the cursed palace causes the reawakening of Chandramukhi.
The strongest points of the first ‘Chandramukhi’ were Jyothika’s performance as well as the core story which played out like a murder mystery. The film starts off with the supernatural, and the twist reveals that the true horror lies in the psychological. Vasu ignores these and instead delivers a weak concoction of half-baked comedy, dives back into the firmly spiritual and zero scare factor for a sequel.
None of the cast create enough of an impact to sing their praises. Vasu is too concerned with tv serial-esque reaction shots than to let one character hold the limelight. Raghava Lawrence poorly attempts a Rajinikanth style performance with none of the gravitas, Lakshmi Menon is severely underused and Vadivel’s efforts at comedy land awkwardly. There are constant references to the first film and even similar sequences. Kangana Ranaut’s performance comes nowhere close to Jyothika’s career changing turn as Chandramukhi.
The film is filled with continuity errors. A very evident example of an actor talking over another during a scene (which should have required a second take) illustrates the lack of care with which the project was handled. The lighting is mostly garish and does not fit the atmosphere. The cinematography is bland. Some of the set design deserved a better film. It is obvious what the film sets out to do: an insincere cashgrab, exploiting nostalgia.
The music is equally as bad. The soundtrack from the first film by Vidyasagar had many hit songs such as ‘Konjam Neram’ and ‘Raa Raa.’ The soundtrack for ‘Chandramukhi 2’ is instead helmed by Oscar winner MM Keeravani, whose score is overly melodramatic. The songs are all forgettable, except for a moment when the lyrics to the original ‘Raa Raa’ song spring up.
Overall, ‘Chandramukhi 2’ is a shameless slap in the face of its predecessor. Many prolific directors of the 90s were unable to make a successful transition into digital filmmaking, and this film shines a light on many of Vasu’s shortcomings. Hopefully, ‘Chandramukhi 2’ causes a slowdown in the comedy-horror trend which has been plaguing Tamil cinema.
Krishna's rating: 1 star
Official trailer for film below.